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By William and Suzette Rishel
Bill and Suzette Rishel are team members at West’s Jersey Shore, Pa., facility. Bill serves as Value Stream Lead and Suzette as a Quality Assurance Inspector.
Let me start by saying that until 1994, I had no idea what or where Camp Victory was. My first association with Camp Victory was in 1994 while I was employed by a Central Pennsylvania Concrete Company and delivered concrete to Camp Victory for the floor of what is now the current dining facility. As I recall, there were cabins and other buildings on site. Even back then, as I saw what Camp Victory was doing for the children, I knew Camp Victory was a special place.
It was many years before I got the opportunity to experience Camp Victory again.
My wife Suzette and I enjoy riding motorcycles and had found a way to do something we truly enjoyed while helping various fund raisers in the community by participating in various benefit rides. While attending the Giesinger Children’s Benefit ride, we were handed information for the DR.O’s benefit ride, which benefits Camp Victory. We decided that we needed to make that a part of our benefit ride calendar. It was incredible to see all the changes that had taken place at Camp Victory over the years.
Then it happened. On February 26, 2005, our 17-year-old son, Billy, passed away from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. In lieu of flowers Suzette and I decided to have donations sent to Camp Victory in our son’s name, “William Joel Rishel.”
Suzette and I were working with Jamie Huntley, Camp Director of Camp Victory, regarding a memorial brick to be placed in the Open Air Chapel next to the lake. Jamie stated that the donations in Billy’s name were wonderful and that West also made donations. We visited the Camp several times while meeting with Jamie. Time passed, and Dave Bergerstock from the Jersey Shore facility contacted me to say that West was going to build a wheel chair/handicap accessible tree house at Camp Victory. It was one of the items on the Christmas Wish list in the Camp Victory Newsletter that CEO Don Morel had received.
The West management teams asked the employees of the Central Pennsylvania facilities (Montgomery, Jersey Shore and Williamsport) if they were willing to go to Camp Victory and work on the construction of the tree house. The outpouring of people willing to participate was overwhelming. There were employees from all facilities performing jobs from stripping the bark from trees, to building ramps, attaching railings and even putting the shingles on the roof. Every time Suzette and I visit the Camp, we go to the tree house and are astonished that something so great, West’s association with Camp Victory and Uncle Walt’s Treehouse, came from such a tragedy. Even though the tree house has been completed, West employees continue to volunteer on the West Work days, cleaning, painting and mulching in needed areas and doing anything they can to improve the children’s experience at Camp.
I have been there when campers are present and the feeling you get watching the children with the disabilities and medical issues running, rolling their wheel chairs into the tree house or swimming pool, climbing the rock wall or just enjoying the chance to be a kid is so overwhelming that all you can do is stop and smile. While enjoying the warm feeling you experience at that moment, you realize that you have been part of achieving something in life that truly means so much! You wish that every child in the world could have this experience. But for the present, you enjoy all the great things in front of you that are possible because of the very gracious donations by West team members, Mr. and Mrs. Morel, the entire West management team, and the doctors, nurses and everyone that volunteers at Camp Victory.
Every child should have the opportunity to be a child, and that is what Camp Victory is.