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Camp Anchor's humble beginnings as 'social outlet'

In the late 1960s, Camp Anchor filled a void left by how society treated the handicapped, according to camp coordinator Joe Lentini.

At that time, schooling and activities for them were far different from today. Parents of disabled people saw their children ostracized and frequently alone, Lentini said.

"The parents felt like they had no social outlets" for their children, he said. "They didn't have any friends. They weren't really welcomed in play groups."

So a group of parents began lobbying the Town of Hempstead in 1968 to open up an outlet for the community's handicapped children.

Initially, "the town was apprehensive," Lentini said.

So officials posed a challenge: If 50 participants were interested, the town would allow the program to be founded.

The response was overwhelming.

On sign-up day, despite a horrible storm, scores of families went to town hall.

"They got . . . [the 50 participants] with no sweat," said Lentini, who's been with the program since 1970 and has been in charge since 1976. "People lined up down the street with umbrellas."

In the fall of 1968, the program opened at an elementary school in Valley Stream with a small program with activities such as arts and crafts and music.

Its summer program in 1969 moved to its current site in Lido Beach.

The program has expanded to one with nearly 700 campers, 230 volunteers and about 220 staff and a multimillion-dollar budget, he said.

The camp also has nearly a dozen year-round programs.


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