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Rock-the-River Spring Festival will raise funds for campers in need

Friends Amanda Schmidt, Madison Krauss and Lily Knobel

Friends Amanda Schmidt, Madison Krauss and Lily Knobel enjoy the activities at Rolling River Day Camp's 2012 Spring Festival, which raises funds for kids from Peninsula Counseling Center to attend summer camp. (April 21, 2012) (Credit: Handout)

Over the past three years, 24 children from the Peninsula Counseling Center in Valley Stream have gotten to spend a summer splashing in pools, going on field trips and making new friends at Rolling River Day Camp in East Rockaway.

“These are kids who otherwise would not be able to attend a camp,” said John Kastan, PCC’s executive director.

He said in many cases, attendance depends on scholarships because the children come from homes dealing with poverty and other situations “that are not particularly positive, so to have this wonderful, normalizing experience is great.”

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The scholarships are given out through a program called “Campmates,” which started in 2010, said Rolling River’s associate director, Marissa Allaben, who coordinates the program. Allaben’s parents, Mark and Rhonda Goodman, have owned Rolling River since 1993.

“Campmates” depends entirely on donations and fundraisers held throughout the year, Allaben said, and the next big event is around the corner. On April 20, the organization will hold the annual Rock-the-River Spring Festival from noon to 4 p.m.

The event is open to all families and typically draws about 1,000 people to the camp located at 477 Ocean Ave. in East Rockaway.

Admission is free, but Rolling River raises money for “Campmates” by charging for food, crafts and access to the amusement rides. Vendors also pay a fee to sell their merchandise at the fair.

“We made enough at the festival last year to pay for at least two kids to go to camp,” said Allaben.

Rolling River welcomed a total of 10 kids from PCC last year. Since the children treated at the counseling center have a range of emotional issues, Allaben relies on the experts at PCC to select the patients who would best thrive in the camp setting and whose families have the most financial need.

Although most of the PCC kids are very shy and lack confidence when they first arrive at Rolling River, Allaben said they quickly start to engage with other campers.

“After the first couple of days, they get right into the activities, going on trips, performing and making lots of friends,” she said. “You can see huge changes in their personality from the first day to the last.”

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