Erick Wilson began going to a YMCA sleep-away camp when he was 10. Now, he takes his 14-year-old daughter Ericka and his wife, too. Pictures of family memories from camp decorate their living room walls.
But the Wilsons may have attended the YMCA camp for the last time.
The YMCA of Greater New York announced Monday it is closing three camps upstate — Talcott, McAlister and Greenkill in Huguenot, Orange County — because of a $100 million revenue shortfall, a result of the pandemic.
"Camp is something that is super, super important to me from being a little kid and growing into a man and growing into being a dad, being able to take my daughter and to be able to make all of these creations,” Erick Wilson said, point to artwork he and his family have created over the years at the camp.
The camps provided an affordable summer getaway for generations of children, many of them Black and Hispanic, who otherwise would have been unable to leave the city. A separate Y program allows families like the Wilsons to attend camp together for long weekends.
Now, camp alumni are trying to raise money through GoFundMe, and they've launched a petition drive on change.org to stop the closure.
The Y said in a statement, "This painful decision was not made lightly. We truly wish the circumstances were different."
The Wilsons have artwork and creations from camp all throughout their home and they say they are devastated at the thought that they may never go to camp ever again.
His daughter Ericka told us what it was like getting the news.
"I almost started crying on the spot. I didn't because I wasn't sure if I would be able to stop,” she said.
They hope the YMCA will reconsider.
"Camp taught me that there was more than beyond the city, there was nature out there, there were good, genuine people. It's surreal. Like, I don't believe it. I can't believe they would take such a beautiful program that helps so many kids and so many people every year to come and recharge,” Erick Wilson said.
"There's got to be a way that we can save camp because this place is super special as far as molding and creating the kids of our future,” he added.