Cathy Carisi – Camp Acorn - 4/22/14
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” This quote from Joseph Campbell was on the back of the tshirt given to me by Camp Acorn co-founder and Executive Director, Cathy Carisi. It could not be more fitting since it perfectly describes Cathy and why she is our 3rd NJ Hero of 2014. Cathy started Camp Acorn in 2001 as a Saturday winter program: a three hour social/recreational program that follows the school calendar. Camp Acorn’s mission is to provide a supportive environment through social and recreational programs that address the physical, emotional, and social well-being of children and adults with special needs. Their programs help campers build self-esteem, confidence, and life skills that branch into all aspects of their lives. The Camp has since expanded to include monthly Friday Night Dances, a nine-week full-time summer program, and a two-hour after-school program on Tuesdays and Thursdays that offers cooking and fitness activities. Today I had the chance to experience first-hand their after-school program and let me tell you, it was a blast! There was music playing throughout the multipurpose room and there were various fitness “boot camp” stations set up around the room for campers. The smiles on their faces and on the faces of the staff and volunteers that helped them were priceless. It was so clear how much fun they were having. Next we went into the kitchen to watch the “Cooking and Life Skills” portion of the day. The campers loved baking their oatmeal cookies, although I was told the “sampling” was the best part of the day. Cathy’s goal is to expand Camp Acorn into a full-time, year round, 21 and over program for adults with developmental disabilities. She is a real inspiration to not only her campers and staff, but to anyone who knows her work. I’m proud to name Cathy my 27th NJ Hero. For more details on Camp Acorn, please visit their website: http://campacorn.org/.