Camp iRock funding comes through

By Julie Capaldi - Contributing Columnist

Like a mule hitched to a plow, we’ve been all over Pickens County looking for Camp iRock funding to expand the program countywide. To be exact, that’s an additional $200,664 added to our $950,000 annual fundraising goal. A LOT of money.

Initially, the challenge seemed insurmountable and there were those individuals who thought we couldn’t do it. The negativity didn’t really bother me too much (OK, it did bother me a little) because Camp iRock was so successful last year. Our donors and even strangers stepped up to help.

We hunted for funding opportunities and applied for a boatload of grants. As of late April, things were not looking as positive as I had hoped. We were about half way to the big Camp iRock goal. Let me say that it is a “sick to your stomach” feeling when so many people are expecting you to produce.

One huge funding opportunity was a grant through the South Carolina Department of Education for community partnerships. Imagine our delight when they used Camp iRock as the model to describe the ideal community partnership for the entire state. Surely, Camp iRock would get that money.

Not so fast. One thing I have learned in my years of experience is not to count on anything until the check arrives in your mailbox. The three partners worked hard and prepared a strong (in my opinion) application and submitted it one day early. The announcement deadline came and went with nary a call. Yikes.

We launched into emergency mode with the one on one “sponsor a struggling reader” campaign. The first people contacted were our current Palmetto Society members who contribute $1,000 or more per year. This was the first time I had ever asked them to give an additional gift and I worried that they may be offended.

My fretting was unfounded because they really came through for the Camp iRock “team.” Some donors even wrote notes of encouragement and testimony about the importance of reading in their lives.

I was at my weekly Rotary meeting when the phone rang. The South Carolina Department of Education was requesting financial information about United Way of Pickens County. Wait. Did this mean we received the grant?

I called our representative at the South Carolina Department of Education in Columbia and pressed her for information. She confessed, “Yes, Camp iRock is one of the 14 communities to share $700,000.” Here’s the real kicker: they rounded the amount of funding up. This is a first for me.

Like an avalanche for good, one funder after the other notified us that Camp iRock would indeed be receiving funding from their foundation. It was a crazy and wonderful few days as we inched closer and closer to our goal.

Last week, I was engrossed in my work when I heard screaming from the office next door. Fearing something was terribly wrong, I bounded from my chair and ran as fast as I could to see what was happening. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the last three grants came through. Camp iRock is 99 percent fully funded.

The goal may have seemed daunting but Pickens County citizens came through. We may be a small community but we care about our children’s future.

The first day of Camp iRock is June 6. For more information and updates, visit our website,

“The MORE that you read, the MORE things you will know. The MORE that you LEARN, the MORE places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss.

By Julie Capaldi

Contributing Columnist

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.


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