The Recreation Camp Turns 100
For nearly a century, thousands of Valley boys and girls ages 5 to 15 have learned how to swim at The Recreation Camp in Derby.
"I have met so many people who attended The Rec Camp growing up," said VCF President & CEO Sharon Closius. "They have such wonderful memories of being down by the waterfront with their friends. It truly is a Valley landmark."
The Recreation Camp's story begins in 1915, when Frances (Fannie) Osborne Kellogg donated more than two acres of land along the Housatonic River to local businessman Irving Peck for the purpose of creating a "summer swim camp" for Valley residents.
"Back then there were no state parks or public pools, and very few places for children to learn to swim, except in the river, which resulted in many unfortunate drownings," said former Camp Director and current United Way Executive Director Jack Walsh.
"After Ms. Kellogg's generous donation, Mr. Peck founded the camp, and its long, successful history began."
Peck, a prominent industrialist who was president of the Star Pin Company in Shelton, raised money for the camp by hosting a lobster feast at his home in Derby for businessmen, bankers, and professionals from the Valley.
Although the names and faces of the donors have changed, the lobster dinner is still an annual event. It remains one of the camp's most successful fundraisers and contributes much needed revenue to help offset the cost of the camp so it remains affordable to all.
Families who could otherwise not afford to send their children to summer camp are offered scholarships.
Over the years, the camp has evolved into a full-day program that includes boating and other activities.
Camp Director Mike Drew said that the professional staff provides fun and educational activities with diligent supervision on the waterfront.
In 2011, The Recreation Camp Endowment Fund at VCF was created to help ensure the camp's future.
"We wanted to build an endowment for capital improvements, new equipment, and camp scholarships," said John Rak, who has served on the camp's board of directors for 30 years.
"We are very popular with families, and many come with multiple children. We're pretty much dialed-in with what our demographic wants out of a summer camp. We've got a winning formula, so to speak, and educational fun mixed with waterfront safety is what we remain excited about."
To be a part of the generous group of Valley residents who have sustained the Recreation Camp since the time of Fannie Osborne Kellogg and Irving Peck, please make a contribution to the Recreation Camp Endowment Fund via the secure, online form linked below.