In late October, 1989, Todd Long and Sherry Kuelz were talking on the phone about a project Todd had to do for school. The project involved looking at playgrounds for those with special needs and Todd had called to see if Sherry knew anything about accessible playgrounds. Out of this discussion grew the dream of building an accessible playground for Sherry's nephew, Camden, and others like him.
Camden had mental and physical disabilities which prevented him from utilizing playgrounds which were installed in parks. Because of his lack of balance, Camden was able only to watch other children on most swings, slides, and seesaws. Sherry and Todd felt this could be changed and were ready for the challenge. While Sherry did research and gathered members for a board, Todd contacted Tom Presny of Janesville Parks Department to find out if it would be possible to place this playground in one of the city parks.
The City of Janesville, Sherry and Todd decided, would be perfect as it was located in the center of Rock County and all the cities within the county would have easy access to the playground. Next came the task of finding a name for the newborn organization.
After two weeks of unsuccessful searching, Sherry was sitting at a table when she glanced at her nephew, Camden's picture. She started writing down words for an acronym using his name and within fifteen minutes, came up with Community Accessibility Medium Dealing with Exception Needs or CAMDEN, the organization finally had it's name.
In late January, 1990 C.A.M.D.E.N. met for the first time at the Janeville Public Library (now known as the Hedberg Library) in Janesville with 30 members in attendance. People from all walks of life were there from lawyers to doctors, nurses, teachers, and relatives of people with special needs. The first donation was given on that day from Jim Noll in the amount of $1,000. in memory of his wife. Later Jim's daughter, Barb would volunteer to work for the organization helping to write grant proposals. Soon after the first meeting Attorneys Bill Vogt and Terry Lyons filed for foundation and non-profit status which was received March, 1990.
Next came the city council meetings which sometimes ran until midnight. C.A.M.D.E.N. needed approval to build a playground within a city park, and the council agreed...approval was given unanimously.
During research, Sherry found that those with special needs were the largest minority group in the United States and there were, at that time, 2,000-3,000 people with special needs in Rock County alone. Three years later, in 1993, more research would be conducted and that number had increased to 6,000-7,000 people.
The first stage of the playground project would be to choose a place which would be visible and accessible to all people. It needed to be flat and shaded to allow easy access and comfort from the summer sun. The board wanted an area which was well used and attractive, also.
After looking at all the parks in Janesville, Palmer Park was chosen as the ideal area. Palmer Park, according to a survey done by the city, was the largest and most used playground, this would help in one of the things C.A.M.D.E.N. wanted to accomplish...mainstreaming people with special needs into the community so they would be accepted, not rejected by all people.
Next was to choose a place within Palmer Park, so with pencils and maps in hand, each member went to the marked areas in the park and put down the pros and cons of each area. When the search was completed and a secret vote taken, the area chosen was prominently near Racine, Palmer, and Harmony Drives. It was shaded, flat with easy access to the restrooms and phone. (Later this would be moved slightly to the east because of the underground water and electrical lines.)
The decision was taken before the City Council for their approval of the placement of the playground in the final chosen area, which again was approved unanimously by the council.
Now in order to build a playground, the organization would have to make the public aware of their purpose and to do this, they did fundraisers, Sherry made presentations, and spoke to the press. Letters and phone calls were made by the board setting up dates for presentations and during the first year over 25 were made to various organizations in Rock County. Every television, radio station, and newspaper in the area were bombarded with information regarding C.A.M.D.E.N.'s purpose and intent and the fundraising process was put into motion.
The first fundraiser which was held was an auction with over 300 items, not only from local businesses, but autographed items from sports teams, actors/actresses, and other famous people who also supported CAMDEN's cause. According to the auctioneer, Paul George who volunteered his time and done auctions for many, many years, the auction had raised the largest amount he'd ever seen for a fundraising auction. The auction raised over %6,000. for the playground.
CAMDEN didn't just stay to the normal fundraisers, they did the unusual kinds and invited many people to take part and because of this the fundraisers raised a lot of money for the purpose. Other organizations came together and also did fundraisers for the accessible playground and by the time we were ready to build the organization had raised over $160,000.00 for the playground.
So you see, anyone, no matter who you are, can take a simple dream and make it reality, just never let anything stop you. Dream, believe, and reach and you can achieve. Good luck with your dream, we hope it comes true.
ENTERTAINMENT AT CAMDEN STAGE
LAWS & REGULATIONS
THE MEDIA 2
PHOTOS 2-MEMORIAL TO A BOARD MEMBER