Dipping for dollars

Camp Ta-Kum-Ta kicks off annual fundraiser

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By Matthew Preedom
For The Colchester Sun

The snow was deep and the water cold Saturday morning at Bayside Park in Colchester, when 17 hearty fundraisers plunged into Malletts Bay. Led by Rich Gardner, a volunteer counselor at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, the jump in the lake kicked off the annual Ta-Kum-Ta-thon, a weeklong fundraiser hosted by Kool 105 FM.

The morning show on Kool 105 is hosted by Jon Brooks who also serves on Ta-Kum-Ta’s Board of Directors.

“We’ve been doing this fundraiser for 16 years now and every time it is more successful,” Brooks said. “The first time we held it on New Year’s Day and raised $7,500 for the camp, last year we raised about $150,000, but the most remarkable thing is that our average donation is about 70 bucks, so it’s just a lot of people contributing. And unlike a lot of charities, the money raised by this fundraiser will be used for the kids and their activities.”

The Ta-Kum-Ta-thon was founded by Rocky Leary, owner of Rocky’s New York Pizza in Essex. Leary had participated every year until this one when he passed a frosty baton to Gardner, a real estate consultant. Gardner works with his family’s business — The Gardner Group at RE/Max North Professionals in Colchester — and takes a week off every summer to work with 7 to 10-year-old campers at CampTa-Kum-Ta.

Gardner said that the goal of Ta-Kum-Ta is to help kids who have or have had cancer recapture their childhood and appreciate who they are.

“Camp is awesome,” Gardner said. “It’s great to see these little guys come out of their shell and become comfortable with who they are. Sometimes they’re going through treatment, sometimes they don’t feel well, but they’re around kids who are just like them and it’s wonderful to see them having fun and being kids again. It is such a great place, you just want to hug everybody, and there is a lot of hugging.”

Ta-Kum-Ta’s acting executive director Hattie Johnson emphasized the importance of the fundraising event: “Ta-Kum-Ta receives no state or federal funding, so everything we do, including week long camps, fishing trips, bonfires, swimming, and hot air balloon rides are paid for through our campers’ tuition and donations. We offer a chance for these kids to experience their childhood which, I believe, is the most important part of life.”

The fundraiser will run through Friday December 19 between 5 and 10 a.m. on Kool 105 FM. Staffers and volunteers will be stopping by the show to share their stories and experiences throughout the week. Since its inception, the Ta-Kum-Ta-thon has raised over 1 million dollars to send kids to the camp in South Hero.

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