Sentinel Progress

It’s time for Camp iRock!

My favorite thing in the world starts today …Camp iRock, and not a minute too soon. I need a big fat healthy dose of reading camp FUN ASAP!

We have been working like maniacs for the past several months raising $311,000 to fully fund Camp iRock. It hasn’t exactly been easy. Not because Pickens County and our donors aren’t extremely generous — they are — It’s just that Camp iRock is really expensive especially since we are adding a new class of 144 kindergartners who have been identified by the School District as needing a little boost before first grade.

Those younger kiddos, added to the rising second, third and forth graders, make this year’s Camp iRock roster a whopping 456 children.

Let’s face it. There is nothing better for a kid to start their education journey with the confidence that they are going to ROCK school. That’s what they get from Camp iRock…in addition to great new reading skills, they learn grit, a skill that is so important in school and in life.

I’ve had to dig up some grit myself!

The truth? I was feeling a little over confident about the Camp iRock funding. Last year, we were the proud recipients of three major grants and a bunch of smaller ones. Together, the funding from this awesome trio added up to almost half of the Camp iRock budget.

“Camp iRock is so fabulous, why would they not want to fund it?” I thought smugly.

Here’s a big dose of reality: The very first notification was $40,000 less than we received the previous year. It wasn’t because we did anything wrong, but the funder had so many applications, they reduced the maximum award amount from $70,000 to $30,000 so they could fund more programs.

That makes sense.

But for one brief moment, I felt “entitled.” I was mad and that is so bad. Really, really BAD!

I had to put on my big girl panties, practice my “gratitude” mantra and once my attitude was adjusted, I called the funder pronto and sincerely thanked her for the amazingly generous $30,000 grant award.

Surprisingly, the grantor confessed that others, also disappointed about their funding reduction, were not as gracious as me. NOT SMART! I want to be the funder’s “favorite” and secretly, I think I just might be, because she has continuously sent me other funding opportunities to explore.

With no time to waste, I got to work.

I reached out to a trusted business leader and asked for his help. He pledged $10,000 and reached out to his colleagues who came through with $10,000 more. Then, much to my surprise, we received an unsolicited $10,000 donation from someone we didn’t even know.

That never happens.

I reached out to him immediately and learned that HE was a struggling reader in the 1970’s and a reading intervention program changed his life. Obviously, because he is very successful!

For the past week, I have concentrated on donors who normally give but haven’t yet this year. This is tedious work but it has to be done because I have one more kindergarten teacher to fund before next week. I will leave no stone unturned.

Last week, we had our first meeting with Kimberly Robson, our Camp iRock Director and her enthusiasm and passion was infectious and motivating. She told me some great news: Our June class of kindergarteners is almost full.

She also shared a fabulous story about a little girl from West End Elementary that attended Camp iRock last year and now is earning A’s and has one of the highest reading scores in the school.

Those success stories are like water in the desert for me. It makes all of the blood, sweat and sleepless nights oh, so worth it.

There is still time to contribute to Camp iRock. Just call or email me and I’ll be there with bells on and with an attitude of gratitude.

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By Julie Capaldi

Contributing columnist

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