By Anthony J. Machcinski
For over 40 years, the volunteers of Camp Fatima of New Jersey have spent summers providing a special place for children and adults with mental disabilities to have a truly unique experience. On Friday, Jan. 27, Camp Fatima will have its first CFNJ Benefit Rock Show.
Featuring a slew of talent, including Kearny’s own I Am Fighting and rock group The Tonight Life, “Fighting” for Fatima presents a great show for an even greater cause.
“I got the idea in August of this year while I was at Camp Fatima itself, hearing the director of the camp speak about how, although the camp is free to campers, fundraisers go on all year round to prepare for the upcoming summer,” said Joe Gehrmann, lead singer of I Am Fighting and counselor at Camp Fatima. “I told myself that moment that, the following year, I was going to throw a fundraiser with my band for the camp.”
The camp, which is free to all who attend, is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations from generous parties in order to survive. The camp itself is unique in its ability to offer one on one services to the disabled and provdes an overnight experience for the children and a bit of a respite for their parents.
“Once they see how wonderful the treatment for the kid is, they can’t wait to bring their kid back,” explained Camp Director Paul Murphy, who recounted a story of two parents who were able to go on a vacation for the first time in 25 years after having their daughter attend the camp.
Deciding which children will get into the two oneweek programs, is the sticky part of Murphy’s responsibility.
“Unfortunately, we cannot take everybody,” explained Murphy of the camp’s application process. “How we determine our numbers is based on the number of volunteer applications we have. Every child gets one counselor, almost like a big brother- big sister type of deal.”
The volunteers of this camp, who come every year to make the experience as great as it can be for its participants, are the ones who solidify the camp’s exceptional reputation.
“You watch and they do more and it’s selfless,” said Murphy, who started working with the camp in 1997 when his cousin, Eddie Raguseo, became a camper. “You want to help give in a way that you feel will be unique to each other.”
“No one gets paid,” said Harrison’s Nick Landy, a former Camp Director who got involved when he was in high school in 1986.
As for “Fighting” for Fatima itself, tickets for the show cost $15, with the proceeds going directly for the camp itself. The show, which will take place at Teaneck’s Mexicali Live, will feature two of the area’s Pop Rock bands, a must listen for anyone who enjoys good music. For those who may have missed the April edition of the Observer where I Am Fighting was previewed, or in the year end review where they received an award for Music Act Most Likely To Be Famous, I Am Fighting is a pop rock group featuring several songs containing emotionally powerful music that bleeds through many of the band’s tracks.
Joining them at Mexicali Live will be The Tonight Life. The Tonight Life, made up of guitarist Joe Crawford, bass player Kevin ‘Jazz’ Siedel, and vocalist Kim Crawford, matches the tone set by I Am Fighting and their powerful music. The Clifton-based band has a sound similar to the rock band Paramore.
The band’s up-tempo beat helps provide a foundation for Kim Crawford’s soft, but powerful, voice to take control of the crowd. Songs like Catching Fire and Right Through You showcase the band’s talent that will definitely be on display at Mexicali Live.
All proceeds will directly benefit the camp, which uses the money to allow free admission and cover the costs needed to feed and take care of the nearly 50 or 60 campers per week of the two-week camp.
While the experience provided is exceptional for the children attending, the volunteers derive a lot of happiness from being able to help out those in need.
“It changed my life in so many ways,” Gehrmann explained. “Everyone who does the camp will agree it is one of the best times of the year. You completely get lost in this world, forget about your job, your responsibilities, and anything else the current times offer.”
One factor keeps Gehrmann returning every year since he started in 2005.
“You experience friendship, love, and fun in the purest forms. Nothing else matters in the world for that one week,” Gehrmann explained.
To purchase tickets for “Fighting” for Fatima, please visit www.campfatimanj.org and click on “The CFNJ Benefit Rock Show” under Events. Tickets for the Jan. 27 event cost $15. Mexicali Live is located on 1409 Queen Anne Rd., Teaneck.
To donate to the camp itself, visit www.campfatimanj.org and on the right side of the page, click “Donate Online.”