By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson
The Lions Club International is one of the greatest charitable organizations in the world. Their devotion to so many worthy causes is deeply inspiring. I recently attended the Ridge Lions Club's 50th anniversary and will be doing the same for the Mechanicsville's 50th on July 11th.
At the Ridge Lions Club ceremony, I presented a Senate resolution praising them for their distinguished service helping thousands of people in need and plan to do the same in Mechanicsville.
During my time in the Maryland Senate, I have been a very proud supporter of Lions Camp Merrick located in Nanjemoy in Charles County.
This magnificent facility is evidence of what is good in one of these fraternal organizations. The Camp is comprised of 320 acres on the shores of the Potomac River. While it is located in Southern Maryland, it is owned and operated by the Lions Clubs of District 22-C which includes Washington, D.C., Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince Georges and St. Mary's County counties.
Its mission is to provide a week-long residential camping experience for deaf, blind and children with diabetes whose ages range from six to 16. It also provides weekend retreats and day-long sessions for related activities, including Scouts and 4-H. During this past year, the camp was host to over 3,500 children and other activities.
Camp Merrick is the only of its kind for special needs children in Maryland. While many of the camp-goers come from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., special needs children also come from other states.
Over the years, Camp Merrick has provided thousands of youth with special needs a nurturing, safe and loving environment where everyone can participate. The children participate in outdoor activities such as canoeing, a challenge course, archery, fishing, nature walks, swimming, story telling by the campfire, basketball, baseball/softball and various art and crafts.
Over the years, I have teamed with Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton to co-sponsor or vote for bond bills to financially support this camp. Four bond bills for Camp Merrick have been successful: 1998 ($200,000), 1999 ($400,000), 2000 ($150,000) and 2001 ($150,000). We were able to get another $100,000 in the 2005 capital budget.
This camp was created in the 1930s when the Merrick family opened its land to boys from the greater Washington area. In the 1950s, the Merrick's left their camp to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. From there, it was turned into a camp for deaf children.
After the Archdiocese had trouble keeping the camp up, the Lions Club of District 22-C was approached by the church to jointly run the camp for the deaf in the 1970s. By 1988, the Lions of District 22-C leased the camp from the Archdiocese with the option to buy it. They renamed it in honor of the Merrick family and changed their mission to serve the deaf as well as visually impaired children. The Waldorf Lions Club officially bought the camp from the Archdiocese for $700,000 in 1997 and leased it to the Lions Clubs of District 22-C for $10 a year for the next 50 years.
Additionally, Camp Merrick hosts a special camp for blind adults and throughout the year, Boy and Girl Scout troops, Eagle Scouts, 4-H clubs and middle school children from Charles County use the camp to conduct studies of the environment.
Good things are continuing to happen at Camp Merrick. Construction was just recently finished on the camp office and recreation hall. The improvements were made possible through matching funds from our bond bills and allowed the Camp to install a bathroom and kitchen in the building as well as air conditioning.
If you wish to help out this magnificent organization, it is easy to do so. You can make a 501c(3) tax-deductible donation to: Lions Camp Merrick at P.O. Box 375; Waldorf, MD 20604; by calling (301) 645-5616, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at http://www.lionscampmerrick.org. Camp Merrick is having its annual fundraising gala on September 7, 2007 at the Greater Waldorf Jaycees Center in Waldorf. The theme is Camp Merrick Idol and contestants will compete and provide the evening entertainment. Call (301) 645-5616 for more details.
One immediate way to contribute is to help Lions Camp Merrick with its recently released plans to create an improved surface area around the U.S. Flag pole where children of all ages assemble each morning and evening for flag raising and lowering ceremonies. Engraved pavers will be used to remember and honor individuals, clubs, businesses and other surrounding what is called "Patriots Circle." Engraved 4x8 inch pavers are being sold for $100 and 8x8 inch pavers are being sold for $250 each. Each 4x8 paver will allow 13 characters per line and up to three lines of text.