An enormous fire broke out on August 12 at TheZone, the Kars4Kids-funded summer camp for girls in the Catskills. The damage was extensive. But one building was completely destroyed, perhaps the most important building of all: what is affectionately known by campers and staff as “The Royal Ballroom.”
Before the fire, the Royal Ballroom had been home to the camp’s outsize dining room and recently refurbished, fully outfitted commercial kitchen. Videos of the immense, blazing fire, show huge flames shooting out of the top of the Royal Ballroom. In the end, the destruction was total, the building burnt to the ground.
The Royal Ballroom had been the setting not just for campers to fill their bellies, but a place of song, friendship, and personal growth. When camp was not in session, the space was used for weekend and holiday retreats for families to recharge their batteries and grow as a unit. But food, of course, was important for campers, especially those from less-privileged homes, and the loss of the commercial kitchen, definitely hurts. The kitchen churned out enormous amounts of delectable food so that campers could sample a huge variety of delicious fresh salads, savory main dishes, and fresh-baked pastries to their hearts content. Here, in the Royal Ballroom at TheZone, there was always enough, always plenty.
The kitchen and dining room were not the only physical spaces destroyed in the blaze. The game room and arcades situated below ground, are gone. This was the entertainment center for the youth we serve, providing safe outlet for kids to have fun during downtime at camp. Here too, was a place popular with mentors and mentees, a place where bonding came easy in the casual, relaxed atmosphere of this comfortable space.
The Good News: Nobody Was Hurt
The good news is that nobody was hurt, as the global pandemic means that camp was not be in session this summer, TheZone having received permits to carry on only with programming for its older, college-aged, DiscoverU youth. Past campers were, however, devastated at the loss of a building that had housed so many beautiful memories of summers past. Shocked campers and their parents flocked to TheZone Facebook page to talk about those memories and to leave comments in support of the camp, situated about an hour away from Albany, in the upper Catskills.
SR: “My heart aches. My daughter was just there 2 weeks ago and had an amazing time at DU session A. she came home and told us how beautiful the brand new rooms and lounges were, she has so many photos and videos of the awesome time she had. She also has so many memories of that building as a junior, intermediate, senior and teen Zoniac. So sorry this happened. Thank you for all you do! God should give you the strength to rebuild quickly.”
RG: “I remember the joy in the songs, the nice people we met through the years, the wonderful food! Even now that my daughter is in college, TheZone is still a big part of our lives!”
AL: “Many, many years ago when there weren’t even two locations yet, my sons created wonderful meaningful memories there. This is so 😥 sad. Thank God no one got hurt, I hope the animals will be okay.” [Note: the animals in TheZone petting zoo were all rescued and moved to a safe location.]
SR: “The Royal Ballroom means watching the girls have the time of their lives. Seeing my daughter grow in so many ways. It’s home away from home for the girls. But new memories will be created in 2021!”
JB: “Oh my heart breaks. I remember being in there visiting day if it was raining outside. My daughters both loved being there for camper of the week. It hurts my heart. We’ll help reconstruct however we can. Don’t go away we need you!”
Now more than ever, Kars4Kids needs your help to restore the Royal Ballroom to its former glory, with a new commercial kitchen, dining room, and entertainment center, too. Won’t you please consider making a donation at this time? The future of our youth depends on all of us. Your generosity can make all the difference in the world.