A Message From Our Founder & CEO Lynne Hughes

In 2001, CZC was three years old. In March of that year, we had just received our first national media article in Parents Magazine. Gary Mason read that article, called me and asked if he could volunteer. Gary, who lost his sister when he was young, lived in New Jersey and began making the drive to Richmond for all our camps that year. Gary was aware that there were no resources for grieving kids in NJ and asked if he raised the money for a camp for NJ grieving kids, would all the Richmond volunteers get on a bus and travel to New Jersey to hold a camp there? I didn’t know how to respond and our Board didn’t know how to respond either. So we tabled it—every month from April-September. We had a meeting Monday, September 10th and the last item on the agenda once again was—what to do about a camp in New Jersey? We tabled it again.

When I woke up to the horror of what happened on Tuesday, September 11th, I knew CZC needed to go. We had a proven program, great volunteers and I was confident we could raise the money. We had a local champion in Gary Mason and one of my former campers (Jamie Decter) from when I was a camp counselor in the Poconos some 10 years earlier, lived in New Jersey and had just started volunteering with her then boyfriend (Mitch Decter) for CZC. (They were all pivotal!)

Our first camp was November of 2001. It was powerful when a mom said, “This is the first time I’ve seen my son smile since his dad died.” To say you’ve put a smile on a child’s face who experienced our nation’s worst tragedy—it doesn’t get more humbling than that.

We continued doing day camps and weekend camps in the New Jersey and New York area for several years. Eventually those campers asked to be in camps with other grieving kids who had losses outside 9/11. This is what our camps are today in the New York and New Jersey area. The relationships we made with the campers and their families who lost a loved one on Sept.11th runs deep. Many of those campers are now volunteers at CZC. They are family. They epitomize resilience and something good from something bad. On behalf of everyone at CZC, we are sending the biggest of hugs and virtual “power whooshes” to all of you today. 

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