Sunday, 30 November 2003 09:00

Camp dedicates medical center named in honor of CR industry

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The National Auto Body Council (NABC) last month took a big step forward in its efforts to improve the image of the industry when a Montana camp for young people with cancer named its newly-built medical center in honor of the collision industry.
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The honor the large donation presented to Camp Mak-A-Dream, the new medical center is dedicated to the collision repair industry.
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One of the new patient rooms in the Camp Mak-A-Dream medical facility.
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Jeff Hendler, Gene Hamilton and Doug Webb

"Often when a great cause comes together with the right people, the result is something that's extraordinary," Doug Webb, president of the NABC, said at the dedication ceremony for the new building at Camp Mak-a-Dream near Missoula, Montana. "I think this building is ample testimony to something extraordinary."

The $1.2 million facility was completed in large part thanks to the more than $500,000 the NABC was able to raise within the industry for the non-profit foundation that operates the camp. Those donations enabled the camp to receive a $500,000 matching grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust.

NABC Executive Director Chuck Sulkala was unable to attend the October 18 dedication ceremony for the building because of illness. Representing the industry along with Webb at the event were Atlanta-area shop owner Gene Hamilton and Jeff Hendler of J.D. Hendler and Associates.

"No where does the collision industry stand any prouder than we stand today doing what we're doing for these kids," Hendler told the approximately 100 people at the ceremony.

Camp cares for patients in treatment

Although there are as many as 60 "cancer camps" for young people around the country, one of the things that makes Camp Mak-a-Dream unique in that it serves children and young adults actively being treated for the disease. This necessitates that a volunteer medical staff - up to four nurses and two doctors - be on site during the weeks camp is in session. Prior to the completion of the new medical facility, this staff and its patients had little more than a 3-bed exam room.

The new facility includes a larger 3-bed "assessment room" but also offers more private rooms - all with beautiful views of the camp - for campers who require longer stays in the medical facility.

"We wanted to make sure all the rooms had nice views, because we want [patients] to still be involved, we want camp to continue for them," Jennifer Benton, executive assistant at the camp, said. "This building is going to allow us to keep them on campus regardless of what kind of care they need."

Two of the rooms are pressurized and have their own ventilation systems in case a patient's condition unexpectedly requires them to be "isolated" from the rest of the camp population.

The building also houses a conference room, small bedrooms for the medical staff, and some gathering areas that can be used while camp is in session or while the facility is rented out when not in use to help fund the camp's operating budget.

"I've been with the [camp] about seven years, and almost the first day I got here, I was told we need to build this building," Gregg Doerfler, executive director of the camp, said at the dedication ceremony. "This is a 7-year dream realized. This building does a lot of new things for us. It provides a brand new entry into camp. We've got beautiful sleeping area downstairs for staff and so we can rent this building out. We've got a beautiful conference room. But the heart of this building is the medical center. That's the only reason this building is here. It's going to do a lot of things for us. We're very proud of this, and the collision industry should be, too."

Kids can just be kids

"If you're here during a camp session, you might see 50 to 60 kids or young adults running around doing what kids do and you might not be able to tell they're here because they have cancer," Stuart Kaplan, the camp's medical director, said.

"They have a week of being absolutely normal kids. The reason they can do that is because of this building. Unbeknownst to them, they're being very closely watched and monitored so this environment is safe for them. We can meet their special medical needs that they couldn't get met at another camp. At the same time, they get a really nice view of camp; they're not in a dark, dingy place. We really hope that none of the kids at camp ever have to see the [medical center portion] of this building, although some will. But this building will help make it as pleasant an experience as it possibly can be."
One of the new patient rooms in the Camp Mak-A-Dream medical facility.
A donor wall inside the building identifies the individuals and organizations - most from the collision industry - that donated $250 or more toward the building. A plaque near the entrance also states that the medical center is "named in honor of the collision repair industry, with great appreciation from the board of directors, staff and volunteers of Camp Mak-a-Dream, and especially the children, young adults and others with cancer who will benefit from the generosity which helped build this facility."
Collision repair industry came together

The industry's involvement with the Camp begin in April 2001 when Michigan shop owner Marco Grossi raised the idea of NABC helping the camp raise the funds for the medical center. By that summer, the fund-raising project was launched.

"We're a fairly fragmented industry," Webb said at the dedication ceremony. "But for 18 wonderful months, this industry came together with one purpose, and we raised $500,000."

In addition to Grossi and Sulkala, Webb pointed to efforts by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and its executive director Dan Risley which raised more than $240,000 to help the NABC meet its goal.

"We're just proud to be here to see what's been built in our name," Webb told those at the dedication ceremony. "We appreciate your efforts here, and we're very happy to have been a part of it."

John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.



The effort continues
By John Yoswick
Jennifer Benton said even after the collision industry successfully raised $500,000 to help build a medical facility at Camp Mak-a-Dream, the industry has continued to find ways to help the non-profit camp.

They've continued to send donations, she said. They've purchased items on the camp's "wish list." And perhaps most importantly, they've let doctors and families with kids with cancer in their area know about the camp.

"Nine years ago, in our first year, we held one week of camp with 46 kids," Benton, executive assistant at the camp, said. "Now we've had more than 2,600 patients come through from 48 of the 50 states as well as Canada and Mexico, and we're known now across the country for what we do."

The camp offers week-long summer camp experiences for kids and young adults with cancer. They may be newly-diagnosed, in treatment, survivors or terminally ill. Separate sessions are held for those ages 6 to 13 , 14 to 18, and 19 to 25. Another session is held for those ages 6 to 17 who have a sibling with cancer. These sessions are cost-free to attendees.

"This is a place where kids who may have never met another child with cancer can come and meet each other and form those bonds and try things they've never tried before and gain some confidence and really just be normal for a week," Benton said. "The relationships and the tools they can take away from here enrich their lives and help them live more fully despite their cancer."

Other sessions throughout the year are held for adults, and the camp is also used by groups helping those with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, the camp has launched a "Young Adult Survivors Conference" in partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The camp was founded in 1995 thanks to the donation of 87-acres of land and seed money from Harry and Sylvia Granader, who own a 12,000-acre ranch in Gold Creek (about an hour of Missoula) where the camp is located. The couple, now in their 80s and married more than 60 years, attended the recent dedication ceremony for the Camp's new medical center, named in honor of the collision industry.

For more information about Camp Mak-a-Dream, check the camp's website (www.campdream.org) or call (406) 549-5987.