Guest post by Bill McCool, Executive Director of UCP of Delaware
Peter Collins was a camper, volunteer and staff member for United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware’s Camp Manito. Mary Arden Collins, who is a singer/songwriter in Los Angeles, recently produced a video about her wonderful brother Pete, who passed away in May of this year. The video tells a great story about Pete, who found ways, both big and small, to give back to the camp and the people he loved.
Pete started at Camp Manito when he was three years old. His mother put him on the bus that came to pick him up at their house, but she secretly followed the bus to make sure that he was going to be ok. It must have worked out, because for the next 35 years, Pete came to camp every summer.
Mary Arden also has her own camp memories. As a teenager, she became one of the camp volunteers and eventually a counselor. Mary Arden pursued a music career, but she has always been proud of her association with UCP’s Camp Manito. When she would come back to Delaware, she would come to the camp and perform for the kids. She and Pete, who played a bodhran drum, performed together.
There has always been a sense of family at UCP’s Camp Manito, probably because we have watched so many children grow up here. As small children, they are campers; as teens, they become volunteers; as high school and college students, they become staff; as adults, they move into the community and they find ways to give back to the program and to the kids who are following after them. And while the progression is not the same for everyone, there is a feeling of belonging and sharing that envelops all of the staff, volunteers and campers.
When Peter was too old to attend as a camper, he became one of the camp staff and then a volunteer. His annual position here was camp receptionist. He answered the phone, directed callers to UCP staff and took messages. In the morning, he greeted campers and their parents when they arrived; in the afternoons, he used our public address system to call campers to the lobby when their parents came to pick them up. He chased down staff to give them their messages. During the off season he stayed in touch with his camp friends, calling them and talking about good times at camp, telling them he was anxious for summer’s return. He was here every June; he always came back to take care of the phones and do his job. He was good at what he did, and he was reliable; we always knew we could count on him.
Like any charitable organization, UCP has had its up and down periods, and during one down period, UCP had to cut back the number of weeks the camp could be open from six to four weeks. Pete made a decision that changed the course of that summer for all of the children who were here. He donated enough money to help UCP stay open for an additional week of camp. His love for the camp, our campers, and the work he was doing meant a great deal to Peter. He gave his donation happily, and he was here that week doing his job as usual. His donation meant others could enjoy what he had always enjoyed – a longer summer together with the friends they loved.
Pull together any group of adults who attended camp when they were younger and the stories you will hear will amaze you. It’s the power of camp; it’s the power of their shared experience. They have an appreciation for the program and a love for the people they grew up with. Peter was that person too. He showed his deep feelings for our children and the camp that particular summer and every summer he was here. We lost Peter this year, but he will never be forgotten by the folks who all shared the same love he had for Camp Manito.
Please take a few moments to watch and hear the video put together by Mary Arden. The song was written by Mary Arden and Pete was her inspiration.
In Memory of Peter Collins, by Mary Arden