Camp Lookout to celebrate 100 years of service to Madison County children – Eagle News Online

EATON — This spring, Madison County Children’s Camp (MCCC), “Camp Lookout,” will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a weekend of festivities from June 17 to 19.

Located on Bradley Brook Reservoir in Eaton, NY, Camp Lookout is an overnight summer camp that welcomes boys and girls ages 8-13 — regardless of economic, social, or cultural background — who attend school in Madison County.

Each year, the camp serves approximately 700 kids who would not otherwise be able to have a summer camp experience. The children, who attend camp free of charge from Sunday through Friday, come from families who are low income and/or are faced with a variety of other challenges. School nurses, the department of social services, other human service agencies, and churches help to identify potential campers.

Camp Lookout’s centennial celebration will kick off with a Friday evening program for all past and present counselors. The fireside event will include “Moth Radio Hour”-style stories and live music.

The weekend will also include a mixed doubles, single-elimination tennis tournament; guided tours of the main grounds and nature trails; swimming and boating; two sessions of family crafts; a formal, adults-only gala; and an open house to introduce new campers to the Camp Lookout traditions.

Childcare for kids ages five and up will be provided on Friday (7 to 9 pm) and Saturday (4 to 8 pm).

According to MCCC Board President Gerard Redmond, the centennial celebration is intended not only to acknowledge 100 years of service to the children of Madison County, but also to accomplish the following: to thank the many people who have contributed to the camp throughout the years, to help raise money to fund the capital improvements needed to support the ever-changing needs of the county’s children, and to honor two longtime camp leaders, Camp Director Jimmy Burton and board member Leo Matzke, who previously served as executive director and camp director.

“Both men have inspired generations of children to [answer the call] of service to their communities,” Redmond said of Burton and Matzke, who have served Camp Lookout for a combined 87 years. . . . People who join in our celebration of camp and [the] honoring of Leo and Jimmy are in for a great dinner under the tent catered by the Brae Loch, along with the opportunity to learn more about a magical place for kids in a beautiful setting.”

According to “The Lookout Tribune” 2019 newsletter and the camp’s 2015 brochure, Camp Lookout was founded near Cazenovia in 1922 by the Madison County Tuberculosis Association to protect the health of children potentially susceptible to tuberculosis. In 1928, the camp moved to its long-term location south of Morrisville, where it continued to serve as a health camp for children. After the Tuberculosis Association declared the camp an unnecessary facility in 1968, the board of directors reorganized as a separate entity, incorporating Madison County Children’s Camp, Inc. as a private non-profit organization. By the early 1970s, Camp Lookout had moved to its current site, which was originally constructed in the 1930s by the Jewish Welfare Association of Syracuse.

Burton points to the camp’s move to Eaton as a pivotal step in the organization’s development.

“We went from a small camp with one building to 144 acres, 30 buildings, and a lake,” he said. “That transition has allowed us to expand our program from 60 [campers] per summer to 200 per summer and eventually to approximately 700 per summer.”

The current campground includes a 900-foot waterfront activity area, 22 cabins for camps and staff members, a dining and/or recreation hall, an infirmary, and buildings for arts, crafts, nature, and athletics.

Today, Camp Lookout is on a mission to provide a program of fun, educational, and safe camp activities that will help children to thrive physically and emotionally, gain an understanding of their importance and place in the community, and develop the life skills necessary for positive, productive relationships with peers, family members, and other adults in their lives.

The camper program of activities features nature studies, arts and crafts, swimming and canoeing, individual and team sports, cooperative games and activities, and structured time for reading aloud and thoughtful discussions.

As an extension of its camper program, Camp Lookout also provides a Counselor-in Training (CIT) program for ages 14-16.

Additionally, under the guidance of Hospice of Central New York, the camp offers a bereavement weekend of support and activities for teenagers coping with the loss of a significant figure in their lives.

According to Burton, another significant change to the camp occurred when Matzke, who served as camp director from 1977 to 1988, incorporated “cabin time” into the daily program of activities.

“Cabin time was set aside each day for the campers and their counselor to work on themes of safety, [team] building, and people making (self-esteem),” he said.

Burton started working at Camp Lookout in maintenance in 1978 as a summer job while in college. Upon returning to camp, he got certified as a lifeguard and water safety instructor and eventually became the waterfront director and the assistant director of the camp. In 1990, he took over as camp director.

“I have been fortunate to have been a teacher all these years, so I have been able to keep returning each summer, he said. “The experience continues to change me as a person and a teacher.”

According to Burton, some of the highlights of his experience at camp include seeing former camps return as parents to drop off their children, seeing campers become CITs, seeing former campers and CITs return as staff members, and seeing the camp continue to evolve and adapt throughout the years while retaining its core values ​​and mission.

“[It’s satisfying] to witness the transition of a child on Sunday coming to camp for the first time scared and apprehensive of staying here, to a child that does not want to leave on Friday and is already looking forward to their return the following summer,” Burton added. [I also enjoy] Seeing what the staff and children ‘become’ as they move on from camp and how much credit they give to the camp experience as making them become who they are.”

MCCC is governed by an all-volunteer board of directors who reside in communities served by the camp.

Currently, the board includes the following Cazenovia residents: Redmond, Vice President Molly Byrnes Hagan, Randy Light, Lorie Riedl, Bill Tilison, and Winifred Greenberg (emeritus).

Redmond, who has served on the board since 1987, was introduced to the camp through his wife’s family, whose involvement extends back to the 1960s. His mother-in-law, Barbara Wheler of Casanovia, served as president from 1968 to 1975 and was active in the camp for many years prior.

“Camp Lookout is a very special place that does a great job of serving the needs of children throughout Madison County,” said Redmond. “Today, those needs seem greater than ever. We have been very fortunate over the years to have a very dedicated and passionate staff who live Camp’s mission every day. . . The community has always supported our efforts [as well].”

Funding for the camp’s operating budget is received from the Madison County Board of Supervisors, local community chests, federal food grants, churches, businesses, service organizations, and individuals. Capital funding for special projects to maintain and improve the camp facility has been received from local businesses, charitable foundations, and New York State legislators.

Direct donations to the camp can be made online or mailed to Madison County Children’s Camp, PO Box 753, Oneida, NY 13421.

As part of its centennial celebration, Camp Lookout is selling merchandise promoting the anniversary and holding a brick-laying fundraiser. Camp supporters can purchase bricks that will be used to lay a walkway at the entrance to the main cabin. As more bricks come in, they will also be used to form an additional walkway from the main cabin to the nurse’s cabin and potentially around the main cabin. Supporters can also have their name and a message engraved on their brick.

For more information on Camp Lookout, the fundraiser, and the centennial celebration, visit

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