On November 7, more than 30 local Coronado businesses participated in the first annual Great Coronado Dine Out, a mid-week fundraiser that invited Coronado residents to ‘close their kitchens’ in favor of dining out. Participating restaurants and businesses, in turn, donated a portion of the day’s proceeds to benefit Camp Wamp, a summer camp for physically disabled children.
Throughout the Great Coronado Dine Out day, Facebook group pages 92118 and Coronado Happenings were flooded with photos of friends gathered, dishes ordered and drinks toasted in support of the camp and its founders Elizabeth and Stephen Wampler. Newsfeeds featured smiling patrons enjoying everything from fine dining to late-night pizza, which captured the Wampler’s goal of creating a fundraiser that fostered participation, community, and overall inclusivity:
“We wanted something that would be a win-win for businesses and customers alike, so we picked a day of the week that’s typically not busy in the hopes that the Great Dine Out would bring people together and get them out spending money in the community – all for a good cause.”
Support for the Wampler Foundation extends well beyond a single day, however, and social media is not the only place featuring the names of the camp and foundation supporters. Camp Wamp itself and many of its geographic landmarks are named after Coronado residents, which Elizabeth credits for the camp’s very existence. She says, “We exist because of the kindness and generosity of the Coronado community. Steve and I get our motivation here. When it’s hard, we just need to look around.”
In 2016, the Wamplers purchased a new home for Camp Wamp in the High Sierras in Northern California near Lake Tahoe. A sprawling paradise of 129 wooded acres, a 9-acre lake, and 17 buildings make up what Elizabeth describes as “something out of Town and Country in the ’40s.” Formerly occupied by the Girl Scouts for over five decades, the property had fallen into disrepair and needed a lot of work to ready it for campers by the summer of 2018.
“We had to dispose of 36 tons of trash before we even got started,” says Elizabeth “but I saw the jewel in the rough all along. There are bears, otters, mountain lions. It is simply magnificent.”
Once the job of cleaning up was done, the Wamplers began the more enjoyable task of personalizing the space and turning it into the camp they had always dreamed of creating. Despite being more than six hundred miles away, the spirit of Coronado remained close and inspired the Wamplers to dedicate parts of the camp to the Coronado residents that made it all possible.
“Anton Way,” the camp’s main street was named for Coronado resident, Dr. Anton Zajac, a researcher and leader in the field of internet security solutions. The camp beach is affectionately coined “Winn Beach,” after Annette Winn, described as the Wampler’s first supporter. But whether a first supporter or a first-time supporter, the Wamplers appreciate all that the Coronado community has made possible, “We are so grateful to the people of Coronado, the diners, the restaurants, and the retailers! Word is that fun was had by all, and we look forward to doing it next year! A big thanks to everyone!”
The Wamplers rarely draw attention to the challenges they have faced, but there have been some hard times along the way. Several years ago, as the Wamplers became immersed in the nonprofit world and were considering ways to build the camp and its resources, they were targeted by a fundraiser who promised philanthropic connections. After months of being on the receiving end of suspicious excuses and unanswered questions, the Wamplers learned the true motives of their ‘supporter’ – now serving a federal prison sentence on 59 counts of fraud. However, despite the disappointment and shaken trust, Elizabeth and Stephen persevered – again turning to the Coronado community for their strength. “The people of Coronado make us brave, and joyful beyond measure.”