If you ask anyone what the most important aspect to any successful organization is, they would probably tell you one word: teamwork. Its importance can never be understated and in the case of Mike Mulhall, Paige Malone and Jamie Malone, their teamwork with Camp Anchor was a big reason for the success of that organization. The camp’s name is an acronym for Answering the Needs of Citizens with Handicaps through Organized Recreation.
The Malone sisters and Mulhall had been working with Camp Anchor, a year-round recreation social program for children and adults with special needs supported by the town of Hempstead, N.Y., since they were about 14 years old. They worked there until their lives were tragically taken last July 15 in a horrific car accident while on their way to help the children who they loved to spend their summers with.
“Everyone loved Mike so much, he was the greatest guy,” said the camp’s coordinator Joe Lentini. “It was a tremendous loss losing him. Not only was he a co-worker, but also he was a friend to so many people. For us he was like one of our kids. He had been working for us since he was 14 as a volunteer and through college too. He just graduated college and became a specialist at the camp. Jamie and Paige were similar situations, had worked there for many years.”
Camp Anchor runs year-round, and during the school year they run programs every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. including weekends. During the summer they have a six-week summer day camp in Lido Beach, N.Y., where the kids are transported to from all parts of the town of Hempstead. They have an array of recreational activities during a seven period day that include art, music, sports, fitness, and aquatics with help from their convenient beach side location. The camp gives the parents a rest from the difficult task of raising their children and it gives kids a social outlet.
Mulhall didn’t only give his love to these kids; he also shared it with his love for the New York Islanders, his favorite team. When the Islanders heard about this, it prompted the team to host a Mike Mulhall Night for Thursday night’s contest against the Ottawa Senators to honor his life.
“Mike would’ve loved it,” Lentini said. “Any opportunity to honor them, show them they’re still with us and we think about them all the time is a good thing. We are at the part of the mourning stages of celebrating their lives. That is the reason this night was so important for the camp.”
They wanted to be able to bring everyone together to honor Mulhall, who played college hockey at the University of Scranton, and they couldn’t think of a better way to do so than at the arena of his favorite hockey team. Most of Mulhall’s very large family was in attendance for the event, as well as many of the Camp Anchor staff and participants. “It means a lot for all of us to come together to honor him,” Lentini said.
On Thursday night, the Camp Anchor team stationed themselves on the concourse in hopes of garnering the attention of other Islander fans to ask them to donate money to the Anchor Building Fund, a non-profit organization raising money to build a recreation center at the camp facility. The parents and Rotary District 7250 have raised $1 million and the Town of Hempstead is chipping in $6 million, leaving Camp Anchor close to the amount they need to start building the recreation center. The building will include a gym, stage, kitchen, dining area, computer room, handicapped accessible toilets, and many other essentials.
The camp needs this building to further their cause of helping these special needs people and to give them the full experience. During the school year they have to rent space from schools and, as a result, have to work around that school’s schedule, but when there is an event at that school, the camp has to look elsewhere for their activities. It is becoming increasingly difficult to transport the kids at a moment’s notice.
The summer weather also causes some concern. When the weather is dangerous, the kids can be transported to the movie theaters or on field trips, but only if the camp knows in advance about incoming inclement weather. If the weather changes rapidly, it is very difficult to get the kids out, leaving a very precarious situation for everyone involved.
“We never get enough space for what our needs are because we are so big,” Lentini said. “We really need our own recreation center and we’ve been fundraising for that for the last three years. The center will be named after Paige, Jamie and Mike.”
The camp will do anything to keep the memory of these prized individuals alive. “We did scholarships through fundraising in their name and the building will be named after them. Anything we can do to move forward with that is a great thing and this is a night that can help make that happen,” Lentini stated.
The New York Islanders work with groups and foundations such as Camp Anchor to give them the exposure necessary to raise enough money and to make others aware of the needs of these people. If you would like to make a donation to help get this recreation center started, you can forward any check to:
Rotary District 7250 Foundation Att: Anchor Program P.O. Box 202 Glen Head, NY 11545
Camp Anchor Parent Association 630 Lido Beach Lido Beach, NY 11561