Youngstown Foundation Grant Will Fund Camp Challenge Renovations

The hundreds of children who attend activities at Alta Care Group’s Camp Challenge — as well as the general public — will benefit from a $20,000 grant given to Alta by the Youngstown Foundation for renovations to the facility.

The grant will be used for much-needed improvements to the Social Hall’s basement restroom areas, to replace an aging cast iron stove with a commercial gas range, and to purchase new tables and chairs.

“Our goal is not only to improve conditions for the kids who use Camp Challenge throughout the year, but also to make the facility more widely available for rental to community groups, workshops and other events,” said Alta Care Group CEO Joseph Shorokey. “We’re very grateful to the Youngstown Foundation for helping us work toward this goal.”

Shorokey adds that the modest income from these anticipated rentals would go to support the many non-revenue generating programs Alta provides to children, teens and their families in Mahoning County.

Camp Challenge, located on McCollum Road on Youngstown’s West Side near Mill Creek Park, was for decades known as the Fresh Air Camp. This facility was created in the early 1900s by some of the same industrial pioneers who also established the Youngstown Foundation. For many years, it served the health and emotional needs of the children of immigrants who flocked to the Mahoning Valley to find work in the steel mills.

Financial support for the Fresh Air Camp waned as the mills closed in the late 1970s, and the United Way ended its funding in 1981. By that time, the facility had deteriorated and fallen into disuse. Concurrently, D&E Counseling (which became Alta Care Group in 2016) had been seeking a summer program site for the emotionally disordered children it served. The last remaining trustees of the Fresh Air Camp gave the facility in trust to D&E, who renamed it Camp Challenge.

Since that time, Alta has invested well over $500,000 to restore and refurbish the grounds and buildings, turning Camp Challenge into a valuable community resource that hosts Alta Behavioral Healthcare’s therapeutic summer program for children with significant emotional and behavioral challenges.

More recently, a specialized Alta Head Start classroom was developed at the Camp Challenge site for preschool-aged children whose behavioral challenges are too great for a regular classroom.

“The renovations made possible by this Youngstown Foundation grant will allow us to share this beautiful facility more widely with the public,” said Shorokey. “At the same time, more will be able to see how much we do here to benefit children in need.”