On Saturday, September 23, 2017, nearly 500 guests attended the Akron Rotary Camp Regatta on the shores of Rex Lake. It was a perfect fall evening as guests were greeted with signature Champagne cocktails, sampled the delicacies provided by Beau’s Grille, enjoyed pontoon boat rides, s’mores around the camp fire, and a chance to explore Rotary Camp and all it has to offer. The evening was capped off with a spectacular fireworks display over the Portage Lakes.
Event co-chairs were Bill and Suzanne Manby and Joe and Nicolle Swiatkowski. Both Bill and Joe are Akron Rotary Camp board of directors and Rotarians with the Rotary Club of Akron. This was Bill’s second time co-chairing the Regatta. Serving as the headliners and honorary co-chairs were Mark and Katie Smucker. Mark is president and CEO of The J. M. Smucker Company and Katie is a board member of the Akron Community Foundation. Both have a passion for enriching the community and “giving back” when and where possible.
The Manby’s and Swiatkowski’s hard work and dedication led to the phenomenal success of the event, raising over $725,000. Proceeds of the event will provide the needed funds to renovate and expand Rotary Camp’s dining hall and turn it into a modern, more comfortable and sensory friendly space for campers of all abilities.
The current dining hall, constructed in 1963, includes a commercial kitchen, dining room and two restrooms on the street level. The waterfront level (lower level) includes an arts and craft room, boat shed/storage area, two restrooms and a summer camp staff office.
The renovation will include expansion for storage, handicap accessible restrooms, kitchen upgrades and the addition of a sensory-friendly dining area and balcony. Many of the campers with Autism have difficulty at mealtime related to the sensory experience of eating in crowded, nosy and uncomfortable surroundings. The new dining hall will help to alleviate this challenge.
The new dining hall will be named the “Judy and Roger Read Lodge” paying tribute to Roger’s longtime dedication and support for both the Rotary Club of Akron and Rotary Camp along with his wife Judy.
Since its inception in 2013, the Regatta has generated more than $1.3 million to support Capital funds to upgrade and expand needed camp facilities reflecting the outstanding opportunities that Rotary Camp provides for to campers and their families.
For over 93 years, the Rotary Camp has served children with special needs throughout Northeast Ohio. Thanks to the generous support of so many in the community, through fundraisers like the Regatta and others year round, we have taken tremendous strides toward fulfilling our mission of “Creating a world there are only abilities!”