BAY COUNTY (WJRT) – (07/11/16) – It was last year when Camp Fish Tales was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The camp’s former secretary stole nearly $100,000 and ended up in jail.
It was enough to force the camp for people with disabilities to close over the winter – but it wasn’t enough to shut them down for good.
“They said, ‘We will open’. And we did,” said Beth Dow, the camp’s new executive director. “We could have been ruined, no doubt. But we had a lot of people in our corner.” Dow is talking about people like Gail Hahl.
For years, her family has donated money to Camp Fish Tales. When she heard about the embezzlement, she stopped by for the first time ever.
“Finances weren’t here to do what needed to get done and a lot of it was just manpower. That I had to give a lot of,” she said.
Hahl is now there every day making sure campers are fed and have tons of fun.
Her pay is great.
“I have gotten more hugs in the last four weeks than I have in the last 10 years,” she said.
Each week this summer, 20 campers with disabilities get the chance to be themselves.
“Makes me feel good. People like me,” said Diane Johnston, a first time camper.
Many loyal campers have returned, but the staff is all new.
“Starting new. New brand, new day, new time,” Dow said.
Dow said it was important for the Board of Directors to start fresh at the camp.
The community felt that way too.
“Home Depot has donated picnic tables, the Lions Club has donated benches. Dow Chemical donated a huge amount of equipment for our kitchen,” Dow said.
Dow says everyone who gave their money or time is making a big impact on the lives of people who may not otherwise have a summer camp experience.
“We have built this dream, they have come, and we are full,” Dow said.
So full that they had to turn people away this year.