The History Behind Thousand Cranes Camp

Overview of The Thousand Cranes Camp

One Thousand Cranes Camp provides a sanctuary where children ages 7-15 years of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds can enjoy being a kid. They can laugh and play, sing and shout, interact and bond with other children with similar illnesses and challenges, and — at least temporarily — forget about their problems while learning important life skills.

Each summer, One Thousand Cranes Camp will provide hundreds of children opportunities to participate in arts and crafts, sports, swimming, fishing, hiking, boating, poetry, horseback riding, and caring for onsite camp animals. Special emphasis is placed on a healthy living cycle, including hands-on learning about organic farming and nutritious eating, free of pesticides that can damage developing children’s health.

The Camp will hold special events including a Gala, Pow-Wow, Camp Dance, Awards Night, Carnivale, and “Cabin Chats.” These events provide valuable opportunities for campers to perform, celebrate life, make lasting friendships, and give each other inspiration and support.

Camping activities are inherently enjoyable and therapeutic. However, we believe the essential camp experience not only enhances our children’s enjoyment, but also contributes to their physical and emotional well-being. A session at One Thousand Cranes Camp gives special needs children and disadvantaged children a crucial boost in self- esteem, and important tools to take home and help them face their ongoing challenges.

In January 2011, founders Jon Dellaria and Pat DeMoon envisioned an innovative camp for children with serious illnesses, cognitive, emotional, or developmental disabilities, and children from disadvantaged and underprivileged backgrounds. The founders and Board of Directors of the neophyte One Thousand Cranes Camp established their unique vision: to build an old-fashioned camp for children unable to attend other camps because of their special needs and challenges.

Within the safe haven of One Thousand Cranes Camp, no child will be seen as different or undeserving.

One Thousand Cranes Camp has designs for a comprehensive home-site to be built in a beautiful wooded area within a weather friendly region of the U.S. We will offer summer sessions, expanding to a permanent year-round camp by 2018. When complete, our campsite will house up to 100 children per session, and feature facilities for a wide variety of traditional camp activities:

  • Arts & Crafts building
  • Swimming pools, indoor and outdoor
  • Dining hall
  • Cabins for children and staff
  • Movie theater & performing arts center
  • Barn and Stables
  • Athletics fields and courts
  • Old-fashioned ice cream parlor

A founding principle of One Thousand Cranes Camp is an environmentally sound, healthy living approach to the camp experience. The site will offer several unique attributes including:

  • Organic farming fields
  • Natural food preparation and cooking kitchens
  • A wildlife habitat spanning 20 acres, including lakes and ponds
  • Fish hatcheries
  • Hydroponics learning center
  • Environmentally whole, regenerative sewage system

For campers with serious illnesses and disabilities, One Thousand Cranes Camp will maintain a fully outfitted medical center. Our trained staff and volunteers will address any medical issues that may arise, and provide counseling to children designed to ease anxieties and enhance enjoyment of the camp experience.

  • Located in a vast wilderness setting, Camp Programs will promote children’s appreciation for nature and responsibility to nurture and protect the environment.

  • Camp Programs will teach children compassionate caring for animals, including onsite horses, goats, rabbits, birds, and fish.

  • Camp Programs will offer hands-on participation in organic farming, nutritious cooking, and healthy eating. Campers will take this knowledge home and spread the message among their families and friends.

  • Particularly for children with illness or disabilities, Camp Programs will focus on the psychological healing, including self-esteem building and socialization.

  • “Brother’s Keeper” and “Sister’s Keeper, ” Camp Programs where children are paired up with a friend of the same sex. Through a series of sharing experiences and games the young partners bridge cultural divides and achieve a sincere connection, continuing on after camp has ended.

  • Camp Programs will help young girls and boys cope with confidence, body image, and sexualization issues. Empowering children to see through the stereotypes and understand the true value of individuality, and equality.

Permanent Staff

Jon Dellaria Jr.,  Chief Executive Officer

Jon is responsible for bringing the Thousand Cranes Camp to Illinois. He continues to provide the vision and expert leadership that enables our program to grow. Jon’s previous experience includes working with a camp program for children with behavioral disabilities. Jon’s strategic planning initiatives continue to ensure the success and stability of our program. Prior to founding the Thousand Cranes Camp, Jon served as Chief Executive Officer and founding Board Member of the Buffalo Prairie Gang Camp.

Patrick S. Demoon,  Chief Operating Officer

Patrick oversees daily activities and manages the Thousand Cranes Camp office staff. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Camp and participates in strategic planning initiatives. Before joining Thousand Cranes, Patrick was Chief Operating Officer of the Buffalo Prairie Gang Camp, and a member of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp association. Patrick previously worked in hospital administration and is currently president of the Kara Foundation.

Medical Advisory Board

The Board of Directors will appoint a Medical Advisory Board to oversee the medical operations of the Camp. This Board will consist of a Chairperson and several additional members. The Thousand Cranes Camp’s Board of Directors handpicks its Medical Advisory Board members for their expertise and innovations in realms integral to the Camp’s population, including oncology, hematology, and sickle cell anemia. We are currently in the process of recruiting a Medical Director of the Board and of the Camp. Previously we worked closely with Buffalo Prairie Gang Camp’s Medical Director, Kay Saving, MD. Dr. Saving and other candidates will be considered for the position of Medical Director and a final choice will be made by the summer of 2015.

All changes or additions to the Camp’s medical or non-medical program affect each of the children. Accordingly, the CEO and Board of Directors of the Camp must first approve by the Medical Director, as well as such changes.

Any difference of opinion between the Board of Directors and the Medical Advisory Board will be handled as democratically as possible. In the event of an irreconcilable difference, the Board of Directors will have the right to decide the best course of action for the good of the Camp and the children.

Thousand Cranes Camp Staff

The Camp Director of Operations supervises the Program Director of the Camp, who oversees the Counselor Coordinator, Housekeeping Coordinator, Grounds Coordinator, Food Service Coordinator, Engineering, Maintenance and Accounting.

The Counselor Coordinator supervises all staff counselors and volunteers. The Housekeeping Coordinator supervises all housekeeping personnel. The Grounds Coordinator supervises all grounds personnel. The Food Service Coordinator supervises both kitchen staff and dining staff. The Engineering and Maintenance Supervisor is responsible for staff personnel in his or her department. The Accounting Coordinator supervises all accounting and bookkeeping staff members.

Site Proposal Sketchs and Images

One Thousand Cranes Commitment to Our Children

One Thousand Cranes has four cornerstones, known as the Thousand Cranes Gifts, which are the foundation of the entire initiative.

The Gift of Love

Our counselors, staff and children give each other the gift of unconditional love. At Thousand Cranes children do not tease each other about their appearance, cognitive, emotional or physical challenges, as often happens in the school environment.

The Gift of Life

The One Thousand Cranes Camp will be nestled in a stunning setting of natural beauty. Forests, lakes and diverse wildlife serve as reminders that despite each child’s challenges, he or she is truly alive. In our surroundings, children naturally recover their sense of vitality and vibrancy.

The Gift of Being

Often children with either chronic disabilities or life threatening illness confront reminders of their condition at every turn in their life. We de-emphasize the fact of illness or disability, embrace a sense of community and fun, giving our children a very valuable gift; an opportunity to ignore the backdrop of illness for a few precious days and simply be…

The Gift of Healing

The gifts of love, life, and being provided by the Thousand Cranes Camp experience work in synergy to create the gift of healing. Although we cannot cure or erase a child’s illness or impairment, the camp experience is loving and fun and does much to heal a child’s challenged spirit. In addition, the Thousand Cranes Camp’s emphasis on unity with respect for nature, as well as our embrace of holistic principles, promotes healing of mind and spirit.

The Thousand Cranes Camp aims to provide every child with these four gifts, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, severity of illness or disability, or degree of emotional distress.