For many adults, the phrase “summer camp” brings back memories of musty cabins, waterskiing and singing songs around a bonfire.But for many kids, a trip outside of the Queen City isn’t possible, let alone a trip several hours away to camp. This is where the Bruce Irons Camp Fund is steps in. The fund makes camp memories a reality for high performing Charlotte-Mecklenburg school students with limited financial resources.“I think one of the greatest benefits of being a Bruce Irons Camp Foundation participant is an expanded world view,” says Mollie James, 43, executive director.James practiced law for 17 years, most recently at The Henderson Law Firm in Charlotte. She decided to make the jump from a legal career to nonprofit leadership this past February.“I decided to leave the practice of law and pursue a career in nonprofit leadership, hoping to leverage my skills and experience in service of the compelling needs of our community. I love being part of an organization that invests in kids over time,” says James.The Bruce Irons Camp Foundation (BICF) was started in 1988 to honor Bruce Irons’ commitment to educating children both in and out of the classroom. BICF partners with 12 elementary schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system and selects fourth graders to participate in its five-year program.“Many of our students have never been outside of Charlotte. They see the mountains for the first time on their way to camp,” says James.Summer camp is a big part of Bruce Irons Camp Fund, but it isn’t all that’s offered to students selected to participate.“We are not a scholarship program,” says Suzanne Niemann, 33, development director. “We do not simply send a few students off for a two-week trip in the summer. We mentor them, prepare them, guide them, offer them other activities throughout the year and we also give them a two-to- three-week summer experience each year, for five years,” Niemann has been busy earning grants for the growing organization that will send 80 students to camp this summer.“It costs approximately $2,000 per student per year to fund our program,” says Niemann. “There are many deserving children who would be great candidates for our program and we hope to serve 100 in 2015.” The BICF recently received a $20,000 grant from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Foundation and was also chosen as a grant recipient by First Book Charlotte, which will provide free books for BICF to distribute to its participants several times per year.One of the final highlights the foundation provides is a chance for participants to experience college life at UNC-Charlotte. Students live in a dorm, eat in the cafeteria and go to classes taught by professors.“Seeing what it is like to be on their own, even for just a few weeks, can inspire and allow our students to develop a maturity and perspective not otherwise available,” said Bill Zimmern, 36, president of the Bruce Irons Camp Fund.
Friday, Feb. 08, 2013
Bruce Iron fund mentors kids for five years
Program for needy includes summer camp
Bruce Irons Camp Fund participants with fellow campers from Eagle’s Nest Camp in Pisgah Forest. COURTESY OF BRUCE IRONS CAMP FUND
Want to help? Visit the Bruce Irons Camp Fund website at www.bruceironscampfund.org or email Mollie James at firstname.lastname@example.org. These schools helped by the fund and percentage of economically disadvantaged students (as of October 2012) are: Albemarle Road Elementary (91.5 percent); Billingsville Elementary (96.2 percent); Bruns Academy (92.5 percent); Cotswold Elementary (40.5 percent); Druid Hills Academy (91.9 percent); Hidden Valley Elementary (97.3 percent); Highland Renaissance Academy (93.3 percent); Rama Road Elementary (83 percent); Statesville Road Elementary (83.1 percent); Thomasboro Academy (93.0 percent); Westerly Hills Academy (92.4 percent); Winterfield Elementary (91.4 percent).