The organizers of this year’s benefit for Northwestern Settlements’s House In The Wood summer camp program have two words for you: Glitter, optional.
Dubbed “Camp Night,” the October 29 fundraiser will be held at the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, offering a fresh, hip take on the “Glitter Ball” gala hosted by the Northwestern Settlement’s North Shore Board these past two decades. The change in name and venue represents a new era for the award-winning camp for at-risk youth and a bold expansion of its reach.
“The event gets bigger and bigger every year so we wanted to change things up and do something different. In the past it has been black tie. Now we’re calling it festive cocktail,” explains Kimberly Romic, Winnetka resident and president of the North Shore based all volunteer, working auxiliary board of the Northwestern Settlement. “We are also trying to focus the evening more on the kids and the importance of the cause.”
Since 1910, the House In The Wood program has been giving children from some of Chicago’s most crime-plagued, economically disadvantaged neighborhoods the opportunity to spend part of their summer at a co-ed residential camp — enjoying a rite of passage many North Shore youth often take for granted. They play, swim, and explore by the lake. They make bonfires and forge friendships. And they leave a summer at House In The Wood with life-long lessons about cooperation, personal responsibility, and positive communication. The results can be life-changing.
But as Ron Manderschied, president of the Northwestern Settlement in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, explains, none of this would be possible without the work of the board and volunteers like Romic.
“Our North Shore Board is a talented, dedicated and generous group of women who — without staff support — carry out this annual benefit to fund the camp’s operation,” he says. “They provide the foundation which makes everything possible. Since 1951, when they purchased the property to move House In The Wood up to Delavan, Wisc., they have been dedicated to providing opportunities for children to explore, be inspired, and reach for new possibilities.”
Founded in 1936, the North Shore Board’s primary mission has been to support the House In The Wood through fundraising and other volunteer initiatives. For the last six decades, that has meant sending about 400 at risk youth to the House In The Wood for a traditional summer camp experience. However, as programming at House In The Wood has expanded, so has the reach of the North Shore Board’s efforts.
“We now have an outdoor education center at House In The Wood that hosts kids from Chicago elementary schools with field science and math programming,” explains Romic. “As a result we have gone from serving 400 children in the summer to 1,100 children year round. They are leaving with a greater appreciation for nature, but it’s also having a positive impact on their math and science test scores.”
These strides have not gone unnoticed. Northwestern Settlement’s House In The Wood program was a 2016 winner of the American Camping Association’s Eleanor Eells Award, which recognizes programs that respond to the needs of society through the camp experience.
“Our camp recently was recognized for program excellence in providing transformational experiences to Chicago’s children who face enormous challenges in their daily lives,” says Manderschied. “Camp is a special place that opens doors to a world full of possibilities through emphasis on personal responsibility and good decision making. We are so pleased that the wonderful work by our board and staff has been honored as a national model.”
Romic says she has been working with the North Shore Board for four years and is grateful for the opportunity to devote her time to helping some of our area’s most vulnerable children.
“These are really good kids who deserve the same opportunities that other kids do,” she adds. “I’ve always had a passion for this kind of work so this has been a truly rewarding experience.”
For more information about Camp Night and other North Shore Board projects, visit nush.ejoinme.org/campnightout.