Longtime Beaufort Fund grantee Camp Wildwood is a life raft for many Lowcountry children
Since it was established in 1998, CCF’s The Beaufort Fund has helped sustain essential programs in the mostly rural areas of Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties with more than $9.3 million distributed to organizations in the southern Lowcountry region.
One such organization is Camp Wildwood Summer Day Camp. CCF has awarded $160,000 to the organization over the past 16 years through the Beaufort Fund for one main reason: it saves children’s lives.
It’s the only program in Hampton, Allendale, Colleton and Jasper counties that provides a fully-staffed public pool where children can learn how to swim. It’s a critical skill in a region surrounded by water, but it’s not one that’s taught in public schools in these counties.
Founder James Black saw the need to take matters into his own hands in 1992 when he returned home from serving in the Air Force in the Gulf War. At the time, he said it was common to hear about people who fell out of fishing boats in local creeks, or about kids slipping into a neighbor’s pool. In at least one case he can recall, a child died. Many others were injured.
“Almost all these accidents involved African Americans who never had the opportunity to learn to swim or to stay safe in and around the water,” he said.
With the help of Masonic Lodge member Mr. Nathaniel McQuire and two Cottageville school teachers who were certified swim instructors, Mr. Black set up the first day camp in the summer of 1992 to teach swimming lessons at Rivers Bridge State Park.
Then, it was a major challenge to teach even 60 kids to swim. Now, with more trained lifeguards and instructors on staff, Camp Wildwood teaches about 300-400 kids each summer.
“We’ve been doing this for going on 27 years, and I believe that we have made a great difference in the amount of water-related accidents in this area,” Black said, adding it’s largely possible because of the annual support of the Foundation’s Beaufort Fund. “Over the years, it’s been like the lifeblood of the program, financially.”