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Vernon  

For this year, camp is a go

There are no plans to suspend summer camp at Camp Winfield for 2018, however, for that to hold true for the future, changes need to happen. 

At a public forum held at Camp Winfield, stakeholders, volunteers, camper families and members of the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities — or better known as BC Easter Seals — were told that in order for the 66-year-old organization to survive, it had to evolve.

"No one wants to suspend programs for kids with disabilities. Absolutely no one," says president and CEO Charlene Krepiakevich. However, she cautioned, "if you don't have the funds, choices have to be made."
 
The BC Easter Seals camps at Shawnigan Lake and Squamish were suspended for 2018 due to a lack of funding.

More competition for charitable dollars, the tightening of government purse strings, rising costs, aging assets, large capital expenditures and technological advances were primarily to blame.

Krepiakevich told a room of about 70 people that if you take away the sale of assets in recent years, and the bequests it has received, the society has been operating in at a loss for a decade. 

And while it is not necessarily unique for a charity to operate off large gifts, having a dependency on those forms of funding year over year is not sustainable. 

"We've had to really dive into the numbers to understand this story, and really had to work with the board to develop a strategic plan that will address this. Because we can't build an operating model or run an organization without sustainable funding."   

Krepiakevich said it will have to learn to operate at a new level. 

"Change is hard, but without change, organizations fail. We need to evolve and change."

Krepiakevich admitted that certain aspects of the organization were failing. 

"We need to get more corporate funding and we need to tell our story better to corporations to get a piece of their philanthropic dollars, and we need strategies to do that," she said.   

Krepiakevich said in order to attract more government funding it would have to develop new programs or partner with others to align with government priorities.

"We need to figure out what are the government priorities, and how do we take a piece of that pie."

The society has developed a four-pillar strategy to help get the society back on track.

The strategy would identify new opportunities, improve board governance, reimagine real estate assets and improve government relations, among other strategies.

"Is there an opportunity to do some housing projects?" Krepiakevich hypothetically asked. "We know that there's funding coming from the government for housing, and that may be an option. We don't know." 

Krepiakevich even tossed out the hypothetical possibility of renting out the property for the bulk of a year to bring in funding.

When pressed on the possibility of selling off some of the lands she said, "We don't want to sell real estate. We want to stay focused on what we are good at and build on that, but we have to look at all of the options." 

It cost roughly $3,700 per camper, per week. The camps like the one in Winfield operate for five weeks in the summer and stay closed for the rest of the year. They are specifically designed for children with special needs.

It was posted on the Easter Seals website "The cost to run one camp for five weeks is between $700,000 - $900,000 per year."

Camp Winfield will celebrate its 50th year in operation this summer. Over the five decades, 35,000 kids were given the best summer of their lives. 



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