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For the week of January 22 - 28, 2003

Features

Campfire Foundation makes its mark by giving scholarships to children


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

When Will Northrop moved to the Wood River Valley in 1994 he began working with children.

After teaching at the Hemingway Learning Institute for a year, he then started the Larkspur Pre-school with Lisa Stelck. Eventually Northrup moved on to the Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum, where he was the Responsible Thinking Room teacher.

The director of the Campfire Foundation, Will Northrop, talks to a member of his favorite kind of people, a youngster. Courtesy photo

Northrop, who grew up in New York and Colorado, has a vocation. It’s to help children. With this goal in mind, he established the Campfire Foundation in 2000.

"It came out of working at Hemingway. We spent a lot of time in the spring getting kids into some structured programs for the summer."

Campfire’s mission is to provide quality growth experiences that will have a profound impact on a youth’s character.

The criteria for receiving a scholarship is economic need, emotional need and a demonstration of enthusiasm, Northrop said. "Our goal is to be a resource for organizations that don’t have scholarships."

Moving into the nonprofit game slowly, they awarded just $2,200 the first year by giving an average of $183 to 12 children. Campfire writes checks directly to the organization the child is applying to, among them Camp Little Laugh, Bellevue Kidshop, Blaine County Recreation District, Hailey Ski Team and Sagebrush Riding Arena.

The second year $36,000 was given for 110 scholarships, at an average award amount of $327. By 2002 Northrop and the Campfire board decided to give less per child in order to allow more children to benefit. Last year 167 children received partial scholarships through Campfire at an average award amount of $234.

Campfire sets a limit of $3,000 to any organization in a given year. Northrop said first they look to helping with camp and children program fees. Second, they’ll look at helping with equipment, and in far third place is travel expenses. As a foundation for scholarships primarily in extracurricular activities, Northrop said they don’t pay school tuition, or give scholarships for a ski pass.

Because Campfire is run out of the Northrops’ home—his wife Patty is also on the board—they have no staff, and few business expenses.

"We’ve made a commitment to get every dollar possible to a program and not to overhead."

Campfire recently received a grant from the Idaho Community Foundation. "An endorsement from them is almost as important as the money," Northrop said. "It’s about goodwill."

The Campfire Foundation began by initiating grants out of state, Northrop said. "We made a conscious choice to build a history of filling a need in the community."

Now more confident with their mission, they have recently begun a small fundraising drive. "Now we can say we need support to do the work."

Their goal is to work with 200 kids in 2003. Campfire also maintains two Websites, Campfirefoundation.org and woodriverkids.com.

The latter is a comprehensive guide for children in the valley that was launched last year and is still being fine-tuned. This year organizations will be able to input their own calendar events. Like Campfire, woodriverkids.com deals with youth kindergarten through 12th grade.

In an effort to reach more of the community, Campfire is going to update the applications—available online as well as on paper through the Foundation office—by having a Spanish version. Since the inception of Campfire, Northrop has worked with social service workers and English-as-Second-Language teachers for referrals.

While the paper work involved in setting up and running a nonprofit foundation is overwhelming sometimes, Northrop calmly maintains his purpose. "We want to tailor our energy to serving youth first."

Energy he will need too, since Northrop is the Board President of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, and a Trustee of The Community School. He also serves on the Vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, is a Trustee of Holderness School—his alma mater—in New Hampshire and is a member of the Ketchum Fire Department. Oh, and he and his wife have two children of their own at home, a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old.

 

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