Friends - Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

We are dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Camp experience for present and future generations through education, volunteer efforts, and financial support.

History

In 1981, longtime camper and former staff member Mike McEneany saw a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle describing a massive expansion of the Hetch Hetchy water and power system that would include a dam on the South Fork Tuolumne River at Hardin Flat. The ‘Ponderosa Project’, if completed, would have submerged Berkeley Tuolumne Camp under 200 feet of water.

Mike, Tim Hassler, Craig Fendel, and several other concerned campers formed FOBTC as a 501(c)3 non-profit to protect camp from this plan. They also helped form the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust, a coalition of campers, whitewater rafters, local residents, fishermen, environmentalists, and local businesses organizing against the dam project.

In 1984, the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust and Senator Richard Lehman introduced a bill to Congress that successfully protected 83 miles of the Tuolumne River as ‘Wild and Scenic’. While the 23-mile long South Fork Tuolumne was not included in the bill, this major conservation victory effectively ended the Ponderosa Project, and saved Camp from the dam at Hardin Flat.

Since successfully defending Camp from that threat, we have continued to preserve and enhance the Camp experience by supporting camp operations. Through successful fundraising at our annual Labor Day Weekend celebration and through annual membership fees, we have supported Camp by:

    • Donating over $70,000 to rebuild The Stage
    • With the help of the annual Ahwahnee donations, sending the staff to their annual appreciation dinner
    • Initiating and funding many camp capital improvements like the Dining Hall fireplace, the Rec Hall porch, and the planned new Nature Center.
  • Purchasing critical camp equipment

On August 25th, 2013, the massive Rim Fire ripped through the South Fork Tuolumne watershed and destroyed our beloved Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.

Just days after this devastating loss, FOBTC met to strategize the next phase of our work. Our group of ‘Friends’ immediately swelled to over 1000 strong, and we have been working closely with the devoted community of campers and staff alumni, the City of Berkeley, and other organizations to help with rebuilding efforts.

Volunteer Board

Jenny Booth Johnson (Secretary/Events Co-Chair) is a fourth generation camper/staffer who would rather be at BTC than anywhere else in the world. She can’t wait to get back to summers of climbing Beaverhead, reading her book in a green chair and beating the staff at volleyball.

Phil Coffin (Events Co-Chair) first drank bug juice and sang the elbow song in 1981. He followed his older siblings and worked on the kitchen, maintenance, rec, and Nature Center staffs from 1993 to 2001. Phil currently works as a Recreation Coordinator for the East Bay Regional Park District, which is to say, he never really left Camp.

Richard Thomason (Political Strategy Chair) came to camp with his family every summer from 2002 until the day they evacuated out of camp ahead of the Rim Fire in 2013. He and his family loved every minute of their time at camp, and his daughters made him promise that camp would be there for their kids! Richard is a Berkeley resident, a former staff person to the State Legislature, and also a board member of the Berkeley High School Development Group.

Barry Fike (Treasurer) worked on staff from 1978-1980 along with three of his brothers. He led many Children’s Hours which served to propel him into a career of teaching. Barry is the former president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and is currently a teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley, and continues to attend camp with his family.

Steve Geahry (President) is a 3rd generation Tuolumne Camper. He worked on staff from 1994-97 and has written and directed the Tuolumne Camp Staff Show with Scott Gelfand since 1998. He has a perfect attendance record at Work Weekend (including through rain and snow!) since 1994.

Jenell Newell (Vice-President) is a part of a “four generation of campers” family. Her favorite bug juice flavor is red and still uses lanyards around the house for all kinds of things. She has volunteered for and/or been on the Board of FOBTC since 2009, mostly helping coordinate the Labor Day Weekend event, and is looking forward to seeing what how our new camp evolves.

Christine Chilcott (Fundraising and Membership) fell in love with camp during her first visit in 1994 and never wanted to leave. She worked on staff 1995-1997 (office and d-hall) and was very happy to bring her husband and three month old daughter to camp in August 2011. Christine is excited to be part of the FOBTC board, keeping the Camp Spirit alive, and looks forward to making summers at BTC part of her family’s traditions.

Richard Sheng (Membership Co-Chair), a successful architect and project manager, also successfully designed many of the structures at Camp. He designed the Stage, Girls Camp Cabins, and a handful of tents along the River. Richard’s wife is one of the founders of the Work Weekend Women Wood Warriors and his daughter was a long time staff member primarily working on the K-Staff.

Scott Gelfand, (Executive Director), has been on staff and at camp since he was hired as the Recreation Director in 1986. He also worked as the Assistant Director in 1987. In 1987, Scott founded The Buddy Club, a successful Bay Area children’s entertainment company that entertains some 100,000 kids and families each year. Scott writes and directs the Staff Show with Steve Geahry, and is committed to keeping everyone’s Camp Spirit alive!

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