The Biondo Foundation: A Living Legacy
PIKE COUNTY, PAFor Lisa Schleer, the newest board member to serve the Ingeborg A. Biondo Foundation, loss and love are entwined in a way that keeps alive the legacy of a very special woman—Lisa’s mother, Ingeborg.
Lisa’s father, Joseph (Joe) R. Biondo, Principal of Biondo Investment Advisors of Milford, Pennsylvania, created the Biondo Foundation as a living memorial to his wife, whose life ended in 1979 in an automobile accident. Mother, wife, friend and children’s advocate, Inga’s life was defined by her passion for her four children and her desire to help children with special needs.
The hallmark of the Biondo Foundation’s focus is its summer camp for children with special needs. For the average child, summer camp represents outdoor recreation, creative activities and campfires under the stars. But for children with special needs, camp is all this and more.
Campers and parents alike describe the experience as a profoundly positive, even life-altering event, with memories that last a lifetime.
Initiated to provide camp funding for a few children with physical, neurological or developmental challenges, the program has seen consistent growth and underwrites the cost for children from the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey to experience summer camp.
Joe, his wife, Ronnie, and Joe’s son, Joseph P. Biondo, work with the Foundation’s camp committee to create opportunities to bring together typical children and children with special needs in a setting where each can learn about the other.
Camping with a Purpose
Regional camps partner with the program to provide simple but satisfying activities in settings where the children experience healthy interactions unlike the isolation often encountered in their daily lives. Increased self-confidence and enhanced social skills are just a few of the life-changing outcomes.
The newest camp in the program is Dragonfly Forest, which specializes in serving children with autism and special medical needs and operates on the site of another partner, Camp Speers Eljabar YMCA in Dingmans Ferry, PA.
The Biondo Foundation sent nearly 100 children to camp last year and is currently accepting applications for the 2018 program. Nicole Armstrong, the Foundation’s Development Coordinator, takes great satisfaction in assisting parents with the application process and being able to tell them that their child will have an opportunity for a memorable and rewarding experience attending summer camp.
A Family Affair and More
While all family members have supported the work of the Biondo Foundation since its startup more than 30 years ago, Lisa accepted a seat on the board earlier this year to increase her involvement after returning home to the region served by the organization. Lisa’s husband, Michael, and their children, Liam, Aidan and Maggie—relocated from Connecticut following Lisa’s 20-year career in special needs.
“Providing these children with the opportunity to be with their peers and to learn from each other allows us to celebrate who they are,” she says. “The stories we hear and the gratitude expressed by their families makes it all worthwhile.” Every year the foundation organizes a holiday dinner to provide children in the Tri-state area an evening filled with gifts and laughter.
For Lisa, it all hearkens back to the parents who inspired her own life’s work. “My father always made it a point to talk about my mother and to keep alive her beautiful legacy. We all do our part to carry that forward.”
Lisa hopes to see the Biondo Foundation and its programs continue to expand. “Sustainability is so important,” she says. “We’d like to help as many children and families as possible. It’s a privilege to be a part of their experience.”
Individuals and organizations can help to give the gift of summer camp to kids with special needs through the Foundation’s Summer Triumphs Campaign. The cost of sending a child to camp ranges between $500 to $1,000 per week. The Foundation welcomes donations of any amount.
For more information, contact Nicole Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org or (570) 202-0119. Checks can be mailed to “Summer Triumphs,” PO Box 231, Milford, PA 18337 or contributions can be made online at www.biondofoundation.org.
Through its Summer Camp Program, the Ingeborg A. Biondo Foundation has partnered with Country Ark Farm, based in Milford, PA for the past 18 years, serving children like Colin Nikles, pictured here with one of the camp’s baby goats. Colin’s mother, Denise recently expressed her gratitude for the opportunity given to her son, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. “Colin has very severe stim issues due to his CP,” wrote Denise. “If someone told me two years ago he would sit still and smile with animals, I would have said…NO! These are the miracles that happen at camp with your help. I cried happy tears and was so very proud of my boy. Thank you!”