Camp Jewell YMCA
A BRANCH OF THE YMCA OF GREATER HARTFORD

Tom Eng

Tom Eng

I first heard about Camp Jewell through one of my wife’s friends, Linda Vega. It was seven or eight years ago when Linda convinced my wife, Kelley, to come to camp to volunteer during a work weekend. When Kelley asked me to come along, it was easy for me to decline—spending a weekend volunteering to work at a camp after a long week at my job was the last thing that interested me. So Kelley went with our two daughters, Kelsey and Ashley, and they had an amazing time. She convinced me to go to the next one, which I figured would me my first and last volunteer work weekend at Camp Jewell, but we’ve been an active family at Camp Jewell ever since.

I signed up to help build the benches at the Hide-A-Way climbing tower that first work weekend and I was so amazed by what we accomplished in under two days. A bunch of volunteers came together, a few with skills but most of us without a lot of skills in one area, and under the leadership of camp staff we were able to create something that would have a lasting effect on camp. I realized then the value of donating just a bit of my time.

The following summer we sent our kids to camp for a session and they loved it. They both came back for several summers, as campers and then as staff. Kelsey is back this summer as a CIT counselor. Their time at camp has made them more self-confident and more independent. As a result of Kelsey’s time as a counselor, she’s really developed leadership skills and she’s used those to take on leadership positions in college. Ashley enjoyed her time so much at camp that she wanted to go on the Maine Pack trip along with a Ranch camp session over the same summer, so she saved her holiday money and what she earned at a part-time job to make it a reality.

A few years ago, Eric Tucker, camp’s executive director at the time, approached me at a work weekend and asked me if I was interested in getting more involved at camp. When I joined the Board of Managers it was an eye opener, seeing all the work that happens at the Board level. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and working with the other Board members and my involvement with the Property Committee. Together with other volunteers we helped to design the floating rope swing, and we also helped with creating Thunderdome. It’s rewarding to come to camp and see the different projects I’ve worked on over the years and how together camp’s volunteers have made a difference here.

I’m really looking forward to our Capital Campaign to rebuild the cabins and other parts of camp over the next several years. I want to be involved with redesigning the cabins and the overall property aspect of relocating and redesigning camp’s layout.

Even in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have guessed, seven or eight years ago, that coming up on a weekend as a volunteer would lead me to a position on the Board and the responsibility of helping to redesign camp. The staff here continues to inspire, amaze and impress me and I’m so glad I’m part of the camp community. A lot of times it’s easy to think “how much can I really help by just coming up for a weekend?” But when you actually come up and see what happens you realize you really can affect change. Whatever someone can give will make an impact here. Sure, we like the idea of a $1 million check, but it doesn’t have to be anything that significant. If everyone would just come up for a weekend to volunteer, or give $10 or $20, the combined effort could make a really big difference.

Contact Us