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.
Pinconning, Mich., March 24, 2016 – Camp Fish Tales is pleased to announce April Douglass has joined the staff as the Camp Director. Douglass will oversee the daily operations of the camp during the peak camping season and assist Beth Dow, the Executive Director with community relations and fund development.
Before her new role, Douglass worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region as their Events and Office Manager, where she supported the staff with office duties and planning events. She also executed the logistics of the agencies fundraising endeavors. Prior to her time at BBBS, Douglass worked as an Office Professional at Dow Chemical through Kelly Services and at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve in such a beautiful setting. I look forward to helping Camp Fish Tales grow and getting to know and work with the people in the surrounding communities” said Douglass.
A native of Midland, MI, April is a 1996 graduate of Ferris State University with a B.S. in Television Production.
MIDLAND DAILY NEWS –Camp Fish Tales recently received a grant from Hasting Mutual. The grant will go toward purchasing a golf cart at Camp Fish Tales in Pinconning to help campers move around the camp. “All of our campers have a physical and/or developmental disability and before accepting a camper we make sure that we can adequately meet their needs,” said Karl Ieuter, president of Camp Fish Tales Board of Directors. “It is often difficult for families to find an overnight recreational facility that can provide for their loved ones with disabilities, but with our highly trained and dedicated staff providing 24 hour care, Camp Fish Tales strives to accommodate any disability while creating a safe and healthy environment where physically challenged campers get to meet and make new friends while participating in group growth activities.”
MIDLAND DAILY NEWS – With the hiring of a new executive director and the launch of its Adopt-A-Cabin fundraising campaign, the Camp Fish Tales board of directors is working to reopen “a new and better than ever” camp for the summer of 2016.
Camp Fish Tales, a 100 percent barrier-free, wheelchair-accessible camp located in northern Bay County, provides outdoor learning experiences where individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities interact and develop skills that enhance their health, abilities, independence and quality of life.
The camp was forced to shut down for the winter due to the malicious activities of a former employee who has since been jailed for embezzlement; however, the board and other volunteers have been working to get the camp updated and ready to open.
“We came together and agreed we just had to make this happen,” said Karl Ieuter, a Midland businessman and chair of the board’s executive committee. “Camp Fish Tales means so much to our many campers who return year after year to the only camp in our area that provides week-long camping experiences to individuals with mental and physical disabilities. There was simply no way we could let Camp Fish Tales stayed closed.”
Ieuter said the past few months have been a real challenge but both his board and the local community have stepped up.
“When we were forced to close the camp and release all employees, there was still an incredible amount of administrative and physical work that needed to be done,” Ieuter said. “Our board and our volunteers have accomplished some amazing things over the winter, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Leading the charge will be Beth A. Dow, the newly hired executive director for the camp. Dow is the former executive director of the Disability Services Resource Center and previously served the Muscular Dystrophy Association as health care service and camp coordinator.
“I look forward to serving the disability community and leading a new team in creating accessible and incredible camping experiences,” Dow said in a press release. “I am thrilled and honored to help write the next chapter of Camp Fish Tales history.”
One of the new initiatives for 2016 is the Adopt-A-Cabin fundraising campaign, where donations will go toward updating and improving the cabins and outside areas where campers with unique physical and cognitive challenges stay and take part in specialized programing.
“Although always safe and in compliance, our cabins and grounds require some much-needed updating,” Dow said. “People donating to this fund will know that their dollars go directly to improving the quality of the cabins, the grounds and the activities that our campers experience every day. Essentially, these donors will become part of that experience.”