What is Bruce Irons Camp Fund’s mission?
The mission of the Bruce Irons Camp Fund is to provide residential summer camp experiences, year-round enrichment programs, and mentoring to Charlotte-Mecklenburg public school students who have limited financial resources and demonstrate strong academic effort, leadership potential, and good citizenship.
What makes BICF special is that we make a commitment to our students for five consecutive years. For the first three years in our program, campers attend a two- or three-week overnight camp in the NC Mountains, allowing them to experience the natural world and a new environment outside the city. The last two years in our program, older campers attend a week of overnight camp at UNC Greensboro’s All-Arts, Sciences & Technology Camp, which introduces them to college and life on campus.
Tell us your nonprofit story—how did it get started and why?
Bruce Irons was a CMS educator who was deeply committed to the belief that all children should have equal access to educational opportunities and resources, and he was always most concerned for those who had the least. He strongly believed that a quality education demanded learning experiences beyond the classroom walls and included meaningful summertime and after-school enrichment activities. During his life, Bruce and his wife Edie frequently spent their own money to send low-income students to summer camps. When Bruce passed away much too young, friends, family, and colleagues longed to do something meaningful to remember him. Edie simply asked that they carry on Bruce’s legacy by sending a kid to summer camp. BICF was established in 1988 both to honor his memory and extend his work on behalf of children. For its first 12 years, BICF provided camp scholarships for one to two fourth graders at Eastover Elementary School. In 2000, BICF broadened its reach by partnering with five other Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary schools, developing collaborative relationships with Community in Schools (CIS), and providing reinforcing programs for returning campers throughout the school year. BICF currently partners with twelve elementary schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system to select fourth graders to enter its five-year program. Growth in the number of campers served has been a priority over the past 10 years. In the summer of 2008, BICF served 18 students. In the summer of 2015, BICF sent 100 students to high-quality residential camps and provided them with enriching school-year experiences and a dedicated mentor.
Describe one of your best experiences since starting at Bruce Irons.
One of the greatest rewards of my job is watching promising 4th graders grow into impressive, ambitious teenagers. At our recent “Happy Camper Night” fundraiser, we were dazzled by two former BICF campers who returned to tell their stories, sharing how their BICF experiences opened their eyes to new possibilities and helped form their desires for successful college experiences and meaningful careers. I listened as one former camper, a senior in high school, rattled off her list of colleges to which she is applying and the many scholarships her BICF mentor has helped her identify. BICF fills a significant void by providing middle-income experiences to low-income students and by providing powerful relationships and networks that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. I love watching our mission be fulfilled in the lives of these special young people.
November 9-13 is Apparo’s Local Good Week—what does giving back to the community mean to you and why is it important?
To me, giving back to the community means doing things that recognize that we all benefit when everyone in our community has an opportunity for success in life. It is important because it shows that each individual life has intrinsic value, and we are all better off when we take care of our most vulnerable.
How has working with Apparo enabled you to achieve your mission more efficiently?
As a Simplicity grant recipient from Apparo, we have benefitted greatly from the low-cost tech support, inexpensive hardware acquisitions, the quarterly software instruction, and the one-on-one tech coaching. Because of the support from Apparo, I spend less time trying to figure out how to get my laptop or some software program to work and more time directly serving the needs of our campers. Moreover, the financial savings helps us provide more services to our campers. Thank you!