This summer, professor Eric Roche plans to climb Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in America.
Roche said he is “so thankful and excited” to embark on his climb June 22. However, Roche also said he feels some frustration.
“It just bothers me to no end that I’m going to be able to do this trip of a lifetime, but there are others out there who physically cannot,” Roche said. “It just doesn’t seem fair to me.”
The journey was inspired by the newly created fundraising effort called Camp Dreams.
Camp Dreams was created this semester by a UW-Whitewater class called “Leadership is Everyone’s Business.” The freshman class consists of a learning community for business students.
The money fundraised by the Camp Dreams’ members, nicknamed the “Dream Team,” will cover summer camp tuition for six physically disabled students throughout America who are in need of financial assistance. Five campers will attend UW-Whitewater’s Wheelchair Basketball Camp, and one camper will attend the Authentic Voices of America Camp.
“These two programs always have families contact them who show interest but can’t afford it because of other combined costs such as airfare and equipment,” Senior advisor Eric Roche said.
Camp Dreams has worked closely with the camp directors to learn more about the programs and get involved.
The Wheelchair Basketball Camp costs $450 per camper. Jeremy Lade, the coach of UW-Whitewater Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team, runs the camp. Learning from the national champions, campers are able to develop their basketball skills and improve self-confidence.
Although basketball is the main focus, Camp Dreams’ member Greg Heal said the camp has other great aspects, too.
“The basketball camp will help them learn the value of teamwork, and they’ll make friends that will hopefully stick with them for the rest of their lives,” Heal said.
AVA costs $1,400 per camper. Roche said the program uses “top-notch” communication technology so campers can expand their communicating capabilities and become more independent.
Dream Team member Keyona Bergeron said AVA is a brand new experience for many campers where they can “learn skills they never had before.”
Both camps are five-day programs in which the campers stay at UW-Whitewater, one of the most accessible campuses in the country. They also get to meet others who they can relate to, Roche said.
“One week at these camps might make all the difference in their lives,” Roche said
In less than three months, Camp Dreams has reached its fundraising goal of $2,750 and surpassed it. Now Camp Dreams’ goal is to reach $4,000 by the end of the spring semester.
From the start, Roche said Camp Dreams has been a grassroots fundraising effort. To represent Camp Dreams, Roche will have a “summit flag” made specifically for Camp Dreams and UW-Whitewater. Weather permitting, Roche said he hopes to get a picture at the peak of the mountain with him waving the flag.
“I want to make sure others know how much I appreciate the opportunity to be able to climb a mountain, and that I am thinking of others while I’m climbing,” Roche said.
He will be presenting the picture and the flag to UW-Whitewater.
Roche’s business leadership class was quick to jump on board with Roche’s fundraising idea, which led to the creation of Camp Dreams.
Since February, members of the “Dream Team” have sent personal letters to their families, friends and churches. They also spoke with student organizations, major corporations in the area, and places on campus.
“It’s so important to give these campers an opportunity to grow and learn and feel confident and independent,” Roche said.
Roche said the class has enjoyed making a difference in campers’ lives with its fundraising efforts.
“Dream Team” member Collan Thom said the Camp Dreams project has been a rewarding experience.
“As a class project, it’s been really exciting to actually be in people’s lives instead of just doing a regular project,” Thom said. “We get to actually see the outcome.”