It’s been a whirlwind for Jenelle Nettles, who runs Camp Able, a beach-based summer camp for people with disabilities.
First, someone stole the camp’s much-loved wheelchair bike. It happened two weeks ago at Silver Strand State Beach when staffers were unloading supplies, preparing for the start of the camp.
Then, news about the stolen bike—which is valued at $6,500—started bouncing around social media. The theft saddened and angered many residents. Then, it inspired them to do something… to donate money to Camp Able so the organization could purchase a new bike.
Community members started sending money by Venmo. They donated on the organization’s website and they mailed in checks. Nettles said that more than 120 residents donated by Venmo alone. She says she’s blown away by the generosity.
“It’s a really special organization,” said Lisa Solis, a Coronado resident and music teacher who works with Camp Able, and who also donated to the bike. “The wheelchair bike is essential in making magical experiences happen for the campers.”
But sadly, the donations weren’t enough.
Camp Able was still more than $2000 short and time was running out.
Nettles says that the wheelchair bike is one of the camper’s favorite activities, as it allows campers who can’t pedal or steer enjoy the experience of riding on a bike. Each year, the camp hosts around 500 disabled campers. Many of them are nonverbal, but are still able to express joy when riding the bike.
“Many of the parents have seen the bike and tell me they want to get one like that on their own, but when they see how much they cost, they can’t afford to do that,” said Nettles.
Then on Friday, she got a phone call that turned everything around.
It was Todd Little from Discover Coronado, a marketing organization that promotes to attract meetings and conventions at four local hotels: Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa, Glorietta Bay Inn, Hotel del Coronado, and the Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
Little asked Nettles how much funding was needed to close the gap.
“She said they were about $2,500 shy,” said Little. “It resonated with me.”
He says he called Harold Rapoza from the Hotel del Coronado, who is also Discover Coronado’s chairperson. Little says he was eager to help.
They cleared the donation with Discover Coronado’s treasurer, who suggested they provide $3000 to help cover shipping and other costs. They were able to move fast.
“We have a community partnership budget that lets us pull the trigger quickly when there’s an urgent need,” said Little. “Our support is meant to complement the incredible support of other donors.”
Nettles didn’t see it coming. “I was surprised, I was shocked!” she says. “We are so grateful for the support of this community. And the parents that have heard the good news, they are just so thankful.”
Nettles has sent an email to the wheelchair bike manufacturer to initiate the purchase. She’s hoping to have the new bike in three or four weeks. Any donations that are left over will go into a fund to buy a second wheelchair bike.
Coronado resident Kirby Barnum, who also donated, was relieved to hear that the bike was going to be replaced.
“So thrilled to hear that Discover Coronado is handling the balance…outstanding!” she shared on social media.
But Little says it’s really about the generosity of local residents and businesses.
“This is truly a village initiative,” he said.