Camp Dream Sets the Record Straight with GVRA by Presenting the Facts

Published on June 9, 2018
Updated on June 15, 2018  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Camp Dream Foundation (CDF), who's largest and oldest program Camp Dream is a summer camp for children and young adults with moderate to severe physical and developmental disabilities, would like to set the record straight by presenting the facts. 

We were founded by the Georgia Jaycettes in 1975, and spent the next 20+ years orchestrating the raising of $11/ 12 million to build the beautiful camp facility that sits on the Roosevelt Institute for Rehabilitation campus in Warm Springs, GA (RWS).  We opened the doors in 1996 as a partner and the first paying tenant, and would be celebrating our 23rd year of hosting summer camp programs at RWS if on May 10, 2018 GVRA did not cancel our dates.

CDF does not have a long-term lease agreement with the State of GA, which was the original intent.  In the beginning, we partnered up with the Easter Seals Society of GA (ESS).  They entered into 50 yr agreement with the State in 1990, see attached, then ESS dissolved a couple of years later.  Then CDF President Gary Tilt met with RWS Director Frank Ruzycki and entered into a half page agreement, saying they'd work together to finish building the camp, and that's exactly what happened, see attached.  Unfortunately, nothing was on paper that would decide the next 50 years for CDF once the camp was completed, and we were hosting summer camp programs.

Both sides have honored the Easter Seals/ State of GA lease agreement for nearly 30 years, until former GVRA Director Greg Schmieg (who was also former Dir of Roosevelt Inst) left office in Oct 2016.  At that point, we scheduled a meeting and met with new GVRA Director Sean Casey on Dec 01, 2016.  Sean Casey told us that we should have the answers we were seeking in trying to establish a lease agreement with the State.  Sean Casey dragged out giving us any answers for over six months, never acknowledging or returning numerous phone call/ meeting requests.  After speaking with Camp Twin Lakes (CTL), who was scheduled to take their founder Doug Hertz to meet Sean Casey in April 2017, we composed a letter to remind Sean Casey of our history, and reinforce our need/ desire to expand our programming at the Warm Springs facility we created, see attached.

On May 22, 2017, after repeated meeting requests were denied by GVRA Director's office, Sean Casey finally responded, see attached.

After receiving this response, we naturally consulted several attorneys.  We tried to schedule a meeting with RWS as directed, which took months. 

On Aug 31, 2017, we met with RWS Sr. Leader Lee Bryan and RWS Manager of Therapuetic Recreation Reenae White.  During this meeting we were informed that 2018 dates to rent the camp facility would remain the same as 2017 dates. 

We repeatedly asked for clarity regarding the many insinuations in Sean Casey's May 22, 2017 letter of response.  We were repeatedly told by Institute Sr. Leader Lee Bryan that those details were being sorted out in legal at the State level, and when it's passed down it would be shared with us.  We left this meeting with no further clarity regarding the GVRA letter and its insinuated accreditation requirements, price increases, claims to our name Camp Dream, etc...

After a couple of months with no news from GVRA Legal/ RWS and many more attorney conversations, we sent a follow up letter to GVRA requesting clarity to their earlier response to us, see attached.  In this Oct 23, 2017 letter, we requested a response by Nov 15, 2017 so that we would have ample time to ensure that we remained compliant with GVRA's demands.

On Dec 05, 2017, CDF Director Gary Marshall called and spoke with Reenae White to confirm specific dates of July 14- July 29, 2018, with an option to fill July 30- Aug 02, 2018. 

We published our camper/ volunteer summer camp registrations on Feb 01, 2018, and we had approximately 150 applicants by the time we received the below email on Feb 14, 2018 requiring us to be ACA accredited before continuing use of the RWS property. 

On February 14, 2018 we received an email communication from GVRA, this time from Lee Bryan, see attached 1attached 1a and attached 1b (*note: this is exactly how it was received, we did not alter in any way)

According to this letter dated Jan 23, 2018, GVRA is requiring us to do something that is unattainable, in forcing us to become ACA accredited before further using the camp facility.  ACA accreditation requires a site visit during summer camp operation as the final step in attaining accreditation.  If we're unable to continue using the facility, we cannot become accredited

On Feb 20, 2018, we consulted with Robbins Law Firm, who spoke to Mr. Casey, GVRA Legal and Lee Bryan.  The attorney felt that GVRA would allow us to continue using the property as long as we initiated the accreditation process and showed them proof, and followed through with the process.  We became ACA members by March 1st deadline, and sent proof of membership and payment to Reenae White by email, see attached.  We began the accreditation process in good faith, assuming that GVRA would allow us to complete the process with our site visit during the scheduled July 2018 Camp Dream sessions, as long as we remained compliant in the accreditation process.  To-date, we are 100% compliant with the ACA accreditation process, see attachment.

On Mar 13, 2018, we received another letter requiring us to provide "provision of proof" from ACA that everything has been completed, except for the site visit, by the end of April 2018 (in less than two months), see attached.  Keep in-mind, according to ACA it takes on average 12-18 months to complete their accreditation process and become accredited. 

To become ACA accredited, organizations are required to upload an initial 20 standards assessment on to ACA's website.  Part of the initial 20 standards include facility related info, which was needed from the RWS facility in order to complete.  

On April 30, 2018, our ACA accreditation rep Denise Bauer called Reenae White to request documentation needed from the host facility.  Denise followed up this conversation with an email, requesting what was needed from RWS to allow us to complete our ACA standards for accreditation, see attached.  While Denise was told on the phone from Reenae that she would send the requested info, this never happened.  To-date we are in 100% compliance with ACA accreditation, see attached.

ACA accredits both facilities and programs; in this situation we're considered a program because we do not own/ operate the facility and RWS is considered a facility because they do own/ operate and rent to programs.  Simply put, GVRA is requiring us to do something they should have already done themselves.  According the ACA, The RWS facility is not accredited, see attached.

On May 10, 2018, GVRA sent us a letter that says they will no longer honor our July dates, see attached.

On May 11, 2018, we sent our appeal to GVRA, see attached.

On May 16, 2018, GVRA responded, see attached.

After exhausting all of our options, on June 1, 2018, we emailed a letter to all of our 2018 summer camp registrants informing them of Sean Casey's decision.

On June 4, 2018, GVRA released this official statement: https://gvs.georgia.gov/press-releases/2018-06-04/official-statement-camp-dream

Also on June 4, 2018, we released our response, see attached.

On June 5, 2018, GVRA released this official statement: https://gvs.georgia.gov/press-releases/2018-06-05/new-opportunity-could-continue-camp-dream-students-no-cost-families

On June 6, 2018, we released our response, see attached.

On June 8, 2018, GVRA released this official statement: https://gvs.georgia.gov/press-releases/2018-06-08/offer-extended-save-camp-dreams-2018-session-0

On June 8, 2018, we asked Sean Casey for a meeting to set the record straight, to ensure that he had all the facts.  Here's the email thread..


On Jun 8, 2018, at 4:24 PM, Gary Marshall <executivedirector@campdreamga.org> wrote:

Hi Sean,

From the looks of your below email, and other communications from your office, it seems that all of the facts may not have been properly conveyed to you.  I propose that me and our VP Scott Little come to your office this Monday morning to discuss our timeline of events with corresponding documentation.  It'll give us an opportunity to set the record straight, and discuss a solution that truly prioritizes all 200 of our registered campers.  We are available to meet you from 8-10am.  Please let us know if this is agreeable.  Thanks and enjoy your afternoon.

--

Best regards,

Gary

678-367-0040 ext 106
$40 a month will send a child with special needs to summer camp
Pledge today at www.campdreamga.org/donate

On 6/8/2018 4:36 PM, Casey, Sean wrote:

Gary,

At this time we are not interested in sitting down with Camp Dream to discuss timelines. 

GVRA’s only focus is to assist as many children and adults with disabilities as possible and ensure they are able to experience the safest ACA and ADA camp this summer.

If you have a solution to where Camp Dream attendees can have this experience, I would immediately communicate this with the campers and their parents.

Again, as a friendly reminder the offer  proposed by GVRA and the other camp expires close of business Monday. 

Thank you. 

Sean

Sent from my iPhone


On Monday, June 11, 2018, we had several more email conversations with Sean Casey.  
See thread below..


From: Gary Marshall [mailto:executivedirector@campdreamga.org]
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2018 1:35 PM
To: Casey, Sean <Sean.Casey@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>
Cc: Bryan, Lee <Lee.Bryan@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>; Harris, Kevin <Kevin.Harris@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>; Folsom, Robin <Robin.Folsom@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>; Scott Little <vp@campdreamga.org>
Subject: Re: GVRA - Camp Solution

Sean,

Why can't we hold Camp Dream at RWS? 
    I forward our ACA membership confirmation and receipt of payment to Reenae White at RWS on February 27, 2018 at 3:53pm (see attached).
    Proof from ACA stating that we're in compliance with their process is attached.

Why can't we use our own ACA accredited partner to help us ensure the safety of our campers while at RWS?

Why can't all 200 of our registered campers attend summer camp in Winder on the dates you have proposed? 
    Are you going to tell the other 72 campers they cannot attend camp this year?

Why is it okay for us to hold our Camp Dream program at one state owned location, and not the other?

Why are you forcing us to send our campers to our competitor Camp Twin Lakes?
    It's like asking a small mom/ pop diner to send their clients to McDonald's.

While we appreciate your proposed solution, unfortunately it still does not include 100% of our 200 registered campers.  This is unacceptable.  We have asked our campers and parents what they think of your latest alternative solution, and the overwhelming majority have declined this option for various reasons, i.e.: too far away, new dates don't work because of school starting back, dates don't work because other activities are already planned, they will not send their children to CTL due to previous bad experience, and a large majority do not want their children to attend if all 200 campers are not able.

At your request, we have partnered with an ACA accredited disability-specific summer camp program, who can help us ensure the safety of our campers and staff at the current RWS location it has called home for more than 20 years.

We humbly request that you honor the July 2018 summer camp dates so that we may continue the Camp Dream program. Furthermore, this alternative solution would allow us to finalize the accreditation process that is required to continue long-term use of the RWS summer camp facility. We remain 100% compliant with the ACA accreditation process.  I am available to discuss next steps when you're ready.  Thank you for your consideration and enjoy your afternoon.

--

Best regards,

Gary

678-367-0040
$40 a month will send a child with special needs to summer camp
Pledge today at www.campdreamga.org/donate

On 6/11/2018 2:38 PM, Casey, Sean wrote:

Gary,

We have received your email and we are reviewing the one attachment dated June 6, 2018 from the American Camp Association.

Regarding the claim that you have an ACA accredited partner to help Camp Dream run a safe camp, RWS and GVRA has never received any documentation to verify. It would be helpful if Camp Dream could immediately provide:       

-          The name of the ACA accredited camp.

-          The point of contact a this ACA camp.

-          The contact information so we may speak with this ACA accredited camp.

-          A copy of the agreement between Camp Dream and this ACA accredited camp.

-          What involvement would this ACA camp have this summer on RWS property and the running of the camp?

Your prompt providing of the information will help us consider your request. 

Again, our only concern has been the safety of the campers and ensuring they have an enriching summer camp experience. 

Sincerely,

Sean

Sean T. Casey
Executive Director
Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Cell Phone: (404) 780-2132, Georgia Relay: 711
200 Piedmont Avenue, SE   |  West Tower, 14th Floor   |   Atlanta, GA 30334
www.ablegeorgia.ga.gov

From: Gary Marshall [mailto:executivedirector@campdreamga.org]
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2018 3:25 PM
To: Casey, Sean <Sean.Casey@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>
Cc: Bryan, Lee <Lee.Bryan@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>; Harris, Kevin <Kevin.Harris@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>; Folsom, Robin <Robin.Folsom@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>; Scott Little <vp@campdreamga.org>
Subject: Re: GVRA - Camp Solution

Sean,

We are working on getting the information that you're requesting below.  In the meantime, we will need the questions answered in our last email right away, so that we can make a final informed decision by today's imposed deadline.  Thank you

--

Best regards,

Gary

678-367-0040 ext 106
$40 a month will send a child with special needs to summer camp
Pledge today at www.campdreamga.org/donate

On 6/11/2018 5:14 PM, Casey, Sean wrote:

Gary,

Again, the communication from GVRA has been clear and consistent, that Camp Dream had until April 30th, 2018 to produce proof from the ACA that you had completed all necessary steps of the accreditation process minus the on-site visit, or could prove you had partnered with a ACA accredited camp who would help you properly run a safe camp program for 2018.  

Unfortunately, Camp Dream did not meet the April 30th deadline. Even now, after multiple requests from GVRA and multiple claims by Camp Dream you refuse to divulge the name of your alleged partner nor will you provide any contact information so we may confirm this partnership.

I strongly encourage you to accept this very gracious offer from another camp, which along with GVRA, is simply attempting to help as many campers as possible for your failure to meet the deadline. Please do not compound on your earlier mistakes by now denying 128 children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy a safe camping experience with their fellow peers.

I look forward to hearing from you later today.

Sean

Sean T. Casey
Executive Director
Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Cell Phone: (404) 780-2132, Georgia Relay: 711
200 Piedmont Avenue, SE   |  West Tower, 14th Floor   |   Atlanta, GA 30334
www.ablegeorgia.ga.gov

Subject:Re: GVRA - Camp Solution

Date:Mon, 11 Jun 2018 20:01:15 -0400
From:Gary Marshall <executivedirector@campdreamga.org>
To:Casey, Sean <Sean.Casey@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>
CC:Bryan, Lee <Lee.Bryan@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>, Harris, Kevin <Kevin.Harris@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>, Folsom, Robin <Robin.Folsom@ablegeorgia.ga.gov>, Scott Little <vp@campdreamga.org>

Sean,

The communication from CDF has been clear and consistent.  You required CDF to become ACA accredited or partner with another ACA accredited camp in order to continue using the facility that we created and have called home for more than 20 years.  We have shown you that we're compliant with the ACA accreditation process, from ACA as you have requested.  Why can't we continue our July 14-31, 2018 dates at RWS, have our ACA site visit and complete our accreditation?  Why would we need to prove we have partnered with an ACA accredited camp if we're compliant with our own accreditation efforts?

Furthermore, why won't you answer the below questions?  This is the third time asking these same questions, which you have yet to address.

Why can't we hold Camp Dream at RWS? 
    I forward our ACA membership confirmation and receipt of payment to Reenae White at RWS on February 27, 2018 at 3:53pm (see attached).
    Proof from ACA stating that we're in compliance with their process is attached.

Why can't we use our own ACA accredited partner to help us ensure the safety of our campers while at RWS?

Why can't all 200 of our registered campers attend summer camp in Winder on the dates you have proposed? 
    Are you going to tell the other 72 campers they cannot attend camp this year?

Why is it okay for us to hold our Camp Dream program at one state owned location, and not the other?

Why are you forcing us to send our campers to our competitor Camp Twin Lakes?
    It's like asking a small mom/ pop diner to send their clients to McDonald's.

I'll share the ACA accredited camp  we've partnered with, previously referenced.  However, you gave us an either/ or requirement.  We choose the first option, which is to remain compliant with ACA until our site visit in July to complete our accreditation.  We have no need to partner with another ACA accredited organization at this time since we are fully compliant in the ACA accreditation process. 

The ACA accredited camp we partnered with as a back-up option is Camp New Hope.  You may find them as a registered ACA camp on the ACA website, and reach their ED Debra McGhee at 404-755-1641 or dmcghee(at)sicklecellga.org.  Mrs. McGhee will confirm that we've had conversation regarding this matter as early as mid-February 2018, which is when we received the RWS letter requiring our ACA accreditation. 

I strongly encourage you to revoke your decision to cancel Camp Dream July 2018 dates at RWS, so as not to deny 200 registered campers with moderate to severe physical and developmental disabilities a safe summer camp experience with their peers, as you have stated.

I look forward to hearing from you later tonight, or early tomorrow.  Thanks and have a good evening.

--

Best regards,

Gary

678-367-0040 ext 106
$40 a month will send a child with special needs to summer camp
Pledge today at www.campdreamga.org/donate


We never heard back from Sean Casey, after our last response at 8:01pm on June 11, 2018.  Sean also refused to address any of our questions, that were asked in three separate emails.  

The next response from GVRA was their official statement on June 12, 2018https://gvs.georgia.gov/press-releases/2018-06-12/camp-dream-update.

GVRA/ Sean Casey seems to think that they're immune from the truth.  This is why we're using this platform to tell the whole story, and let the public review the facts and see exactly what is really happening.  GVRA's purpose is to serve people with disabilities, not collude with one nonprofit to shut down another.  If you're reading this, we urge you to take immediate action.  Don't take this sitting down, stand up and fight for justice. 
  
#savecampdream

Contact your local State Rep: 

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http://www.senate.ga.gov/senators/en-US/SenateMembersList.aspx