The secret’s out: Friends have raised nearly $50K
June 7, 2014
By Neil Pierson
New: June 7, 11:17 a.m.
When four Eastside Catholic School students began raising money in 2010 for a summer camp on Orcas Island, they didn’t fully understand what they’d set in motion.
Four years later, the four friends – juniors Arend Broekmate, Alec Baer, Brooks Meadowcroft and Bill Dimlow – have made waves with their Secret Scholarship Fund, which has paved the way for at least 10 full-ride scholarships at Camp Four Winds Westward Ho.
The boys have raised nearly $50,000 to this point, and expect to shatter the mark before they graduate next June. When they created the fund, they didn’t have that goal in mind, but are pleasantly surprised at their success.
“Really, we didn’t know how long this would last,” Broekmate said. “We thought maybe a year, and we’d get a couple of kids to go to camp.
“But I think once we started realizing that the secret scholarship was kind of established and here to stay, we decided that we would really love to raise $50,000 before we graduated. So it’s kind of a milestone for us coming up on that.”
Camp Four Winds invites boys and girls ages 7-15 to participate each summer. Younger children attend a week-long program, while the older ones stay in the San Juan Islands for a month.
Broekmate, Baer, Meadowcroft and Dimlow have been friends since kindergarten, and all began attending the camp when they were 8 or 9. They stopped going last year – high-school juniors and seniors only attend in select leadership roles – but their passion for the scholarship fund has never wavered.
“It has helped all of us grow as people,” Dimlow said. “Coming into camp, we were probably all terrified. It’s a month away from your parents.
“It’s like a whole new thing, but it’s taught us to be independent, it’s taught us to make friends. It’s made us better people. It’s a character builder.”
About 20 percent of Four Winds’ campers have a partial or full scholarship to pay for tuition. The rates are $1,040 for one week or $4,600 for four weeks.
Campers participate in a variety of outdoor activities – songs, stories, horseback riding and sailing for younger children; a six-day backpacking, canoeing or kayaking odyssey for older ones.
But there’s much more to it than that, Broekmate said. People of all backgrounds are welcome. Anyone with an open mind and a willingness to try new and uncomfortable activities typically has a great time.
“It’s kind of corny, but it’s about magic and love, basically,” Broekmate said. “The magic of camp, it’s something special and it’s hard to describe, but when you go there you really understand it … I think it’s a great feeling for us because it’s had such a huge impact on our lives, so knowing that we’re letting people get that experience is a pretty cool thing.”
The idea for the Secret Scholarship Fund, Meadowcroft said, evolved through the boys’ relationship with a fellow camper. He was attending Four Winds on a three-year financial-aid package that was about to expire.
“We were thinking about how great it would be to give those kind of kids another year at camp,” Meadowcroft said.
While the foursome have spent time collecting money through a variety of fundraisers, the best responses have come from families of current and former Four Winds campers. This year, they contacted each of the roughly 400 families by mail to seek donations.
“Recently, we had one person donate over $6,000, which just shows that people are going to continue caring about it,” Meadowcroft said. “It’s never going to be something that becomes obsolete because there’s always a need for these campers to have the money to go to camp.”
They’re hoping to find a willing individual or group to take over the scholarship fund next year, and plan to be more proactive to make that happen.
Four Winds is a place where friendships develop deep roots, the boys said, and they want others to be able to recreate their experience.
“You have your typical childhood friendships where you play sports together, you do school together, you become close with them,” Broekmate said, “but you’re not really close to someone, in my opinion, until you’ve lived with them in a tent for a month.”