'George to the Rescue' is a life saver for LI's 'Camp ANCHOR'
"George to the Rescue," WNBC/4's community-based fix-it-up show starring contractor-host George Oliphant, spearheads a targeted refurbishment at the Town of Hempstead's Camp ANCHOR, a recreation center for individuals with disabilities, Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The camp, in the Town of Hempstead's Lido Beach hamlet, hosts the six-week summer program of the more than 50-year-old nonprofit group Answering the Needs of Citizens with Handicaps through Organized Recreation, providing sports, dance, music, drama, home economics, equine therapy, surfing and more to 32 different groups based on age, needs and abilities.
One disused and deteriorating facility there was an outdoor handball court which had been sprouting weeds and casting a pall on the otherwise bright and inviting camp. Working with volunteers, including the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, and with local vendors who donated time and labor, "George to the Rescue" turned it into a miniature golf course: "Wheelchair-friendly, walker-friendly, cane — whatever you're dealing with, you are going to be able to play mini golf if you want to play mini golf," said Oliphant, 46.
"The Town of Hempstead," he goes on, "takes great pride in Camp ANCHOR and was very helpful in getting us materials and in getting us a scissor lift that we could use to paint this wall and fix the fence. Everybody really came out to support Camp ANCHOR. You could just see the power it has within the community."
Floral Park's Gabrielle Cuoccio, a professional designer who formerly worked at the camp, devised the postcard-like mural executed by Mural Painter Inc. Amanda Moore and Keri Venti of Long Beach's Wolf & Wing Interior Design "helped us figure out the layout of the course and the color scheme of the fence, and they created the golf shack" where putters and golf balls are distributed, said Andrew Bank, the show's Manhasset-born and Merrick-raised senior producer. "They also came up with the idea of Tees by the Sea, which is the name of the course."
The physical structures of the holes and mini greens came from a kit contributed by the PBA. Oceanside's Ahead of the Game Synthetic Turf Maintenance supplied the artificial grass. With the episode's production taking place during multiple days in late June and early July, Oliphant says, the reveal was shot July 6.
Of all the renovations of homes, businesses and institutions in need on the 12 seasons of "George to the Rescue," Oliphant — son of the late James "Tim" Oliphant, a Watergate special prosecutor during the Nixon administration — estimates half have taken place on Long Island.
"I will pull into a strip mall or we'll be at a stop sign and people stop to tell us how much they love the show and love what we do," says the Philadelphia-born and Colorado-raised Oliphant, who now lives in New Jersey. "We definitely have been adopted by the people of Long Island. And we don't take that for granted and we are very proud of the jobs we've done and the relationships we've made out here."
Future episodes take place in Greenlawn (Oct. 9), Lake Grove (Oct. 23) and West Hempstead (Oct. 30).