Cheshire Parents to ask Town to help support Special Needs Camp
(March 2006) - TakeAnotherStep News

Camp John J Nerden RTC Camp located in Middlefield, CT had been in existence since the mid 1960’s.

The Camp was started in cooperation with the Southington, Cheshire and Meriden Associations of Retarded Citizens.

At that time the Town’s Park and Recreation Departments were approached and asked to support this camp by “donating” the per camper, per day cost of each camper that attended from their own town.

The Park and Recreations departments agreed to support this camp under the premise that it would be cheaper to support them than to start a Special Needs Camp of their own. The camp was set up as a free camp to the families, supported by the Town’s Park and Recreation Department.

Sometime is the late 70’s – early 80’s, the town of Cheshire CT decided that they would no longer support this camp.

The Camp Nerden Board of Directors voted that they would not turn away any camper on the basis of payment.

Cheshire campers continued to be allowed to attend Camp and the “request for funding” continued to be sent to the Park and Recreation Department each year.

The Camp never followed up on the “requests” and due to the numerous staffing changes that have taken place in the Park and Recreation Department, there would be no reason that the current staff would know what the requests were for.

The Town of Cheshire currently has the second largest number of campers attending Camp Nerden – second only to Meriden.

The cost for these campers last season was a little more than $16,000.00.

The Board of Directors decided it was time to enlist the camper’s parents to help them get the funding they needed from Cheshire.

A meeting was held on February 27, 2006 with the parents of Cheshire Campers.

The Town Manager, Michael Milone was contacted and he directed the parents to the Park and Recreation Commission.

The Park and Recreation Commission agreed to support funding to the Camp.

The parents were asked to contact their Town Councilor’s to ask that they support funding for Camp Nerden.

One Parent writes:

“Our daughter is a 17 year old intellectually disabled person. She has been attending Camp Nerden in Middlefield for the past six years. Even though we have enrolled her in other regular programs in Hamden and Cheshire, they were unable to supply the proper support and guidance for children with disabilities. We have been sending my daughter to Camp Nerden under the impression that the town was paying for her since there are no comparable summer programs in Cheshire for special needs. We also appreciate the town for providing busing to the camp. This is extremely helpful!!!
    I can not express in enough words how much my daughter loves this camp. This camp provides the proper guidance, socialization, activities such as swimming, sports, arts and crafts, talent shows, development of long time friends that are like my daughter, comradely, development of self confidence, and so much more. She talks about camp and her friends all of the time and June can't come soon enough. The friends she has made at camp she has seen at Special Olympics and other social activities provided by Camp Nerden throughout the winter months. This has not been mentioned before, but Camp Nerden sponsors a monthly social or movie night for those enrolled in the camp.

They are wonderful!”

Another Parent writes:

” We tried the Park and Recreation Camps when my son was younger, but because he was totally non verbal until he was 7, and of course for safety reasons, I had to pay someone to attend with him. Park and Rec. will provide mentors IF they have them available. I also had to register him with younger children so he would fit in a little bit more. He is big for his age, so that hasn’t been an option for quite awhile.

My son has made great strides socially at Camp. Most of the progress he has made socially has been due to camp, not school, not at the programs that I enroll him in (there was not many of those available until recently), but from Camp Nerden.

The all-around difference in him from when he attended Park and Recreation Camps or summer school to when he started attending Nerden full time, is unmistakable.

Camp Nerden also uses age appropriate volunteers in each age group to help run the camp. These volunteers spend their entire summer at camp with our children, so there are “normal developing” peers for there for the campers to model.

The camp is run very professionally. There are activities scheduled all day long. They have an after-camp program for some campers. They also run what they call a “winter camp” program where every few months they have an activity such as movies, bowling and holiday parties so that the campers are able to see their friends during the rest of the year. They all look forward to all of these programs. The staff and volunteers are all very dedicated. It is really an exceptional program.

I hope you will see the value in this program and lend your support to help fund it.”

Yet another parent writes:

“The camp was set up as a free camp to parents. The town made a commitment to support this camp as there was no program of this kind at the time in Cheshire. Nothing has changed on that front – 45 years later, there is no special needs program comparable to Camp Nerden.”

Parents and camp staff and board members will attend the Park and Recreation budget committee meeting on Monday, March 27, 2006 to state their case.

To make a donation to Camp Nerden or for more information:
John J. Nerden RTC Camp
Powder Hill Rd.- Middlefield, CT - 860-349-9826
Mailing: PO Box 2617
Meriden, Ct 06451