Summer Camp Scholarship Offers Hope to Youth in Need of an Empowering Home-Away-From-Home

A YMCA camp in New Jersey and a Philadelphia bank carry on a beloved camp counselor’s heartfelt legacy.

Nicholas Peter DiMona III, at right, was a camper-turned-counselor at YMCA of the Pines, before recently losing his life in a tragic accident. He knew the value of a summer camp experience, and a scholarship fund in his honor will ensure that his legacy lives on at the Medford, NJ organization.

Nicholas Peter DiMona III was a life-long camper-turned-counselor at YMCA of the Pines in Medford, New Jersey. He was so profoundly changed by camp as a child, that he devoted his work and volunteer time to Camp Ockanickon, the boy’s summer camp, plus several of the organization’s other programs. During his counselor training, Nick became friends with one of the campers in his mentor counselor’s group. As they spent time together, Nick learned about the boy’s emotionally troubling home life, and how camp had made a positive difference in his life. Nick was quite moved by the boy’s story.

As the camp experience aided this boy in his life, Nick, too, continued to grow from working with the children in his groups. He eventually joined the military, but continued to visit and volunteer at YMCA of the Pines during his limited leave time, most recently during winter camp in 2018.

Tragically in March of 2019, at the age of 20, Nick was killed during a live fire training exercise with the U.S. Army.

“Nick was a remarkable young man,” said Mark Dibble, CEO of YMCA of the Pines. “He was always giving. He gave his time, his love and energy to anyone who was in need.”

After the devastating news of Nick’s death, Dibble reached out to Nick’s mother Melissa DiMona – who until recently worked at YMCA of the Pines – and asked how best camp could honor Nick’s memory. They decided to set up an annual scholarship fund in Nick’s name, as a way of supporting children such as the child whose story had so impacted Nick. Melissa recounted how much her son loved working with young campers; it was undoubtedly part of the reason he remained dedicated to YMCA of the Pines.

When it came time to raise the money for Nick’s fund, Dibble and Suzette Belz, Vice President of Development at YMCA of the Pines, turned to their established relationship with Republic Bank and CDC Deposits Corp.

Sharon Hammel, Chief Retail Officer at Republic Bank with stores in Philadelphia, South Jersey and New York, has been on the board at YMCA of the Pines (formerly known as YMCA Camp Ockanickon) since the 1990s and continues to remain actively involved in supporting the organization. When she heard about Nick’s story, she knew Republic was in a unique position to support the scholarship fund quickly.

“As a community bank dedicated to the neighborhoods we serve, we’re grateful to be able to work with CDC’s Impact Deposit Program in order to use our bank’s deposits to serve local charities. Doing things at a grassroots level, where the impact is truly felt within the areas we serve, is where we focus our charitable efforts. We’re proud to champion this wonderful cause that helps deserving children in need,” Hammel said.

In addition to contributing a portion of the accrued interest of Republic Bank’s deposits, CDC provided the first $3,000 in seed money for the fund, paving the way for the first child-in-need to attend a free week of camp.

When asked about the difference YMCA of the Pines has made in her life and the quality of life in her community, Hammel shared: “Every year, there are so many devastating stories of those in the community experiencing hardships. The most powerful thing about what the Y does is that it not only supports improving overall health and wellbeing, but it also helps families overcome tragedies like this one. These people could be your friends or your neighbors and you may not even be aware that they are struggling. The Y has a special way of reaching all those in need.”

Every summer, more than 2,500 children and teens attend one of the summer camps organized by YMCA of the Pines. More than 700 of these youth require partial or full financial assistance to participate, and that number continues to increase every year.

Belz is responsible for raising over $350,000 annually to support the community’s most vulnerable youth, teens and families with their programs. “Camp has an immense impact on the lives of all children who attend,” she said. “Every child deserves to participate, and the ones who would benefit most can’t always afford it. We have scholarship programs that support youth dealing with a variety of domestic challenges, and when they come to camp for one or more weeks, it changes their lives.

“Some of our kids come from impoverished areas such as Camden and Atlantic City,” Belz continued. “Outdoors here looks much different than where they come from. Often after spending time connecting with nature, their perspective is different. They get to try traditional camp activities such as fishing, boating and swimming, which they otherwise would never do. More important, they learn how to be independent, self-sufficient and resilient at camp.”

Dibble pointed out that because of the profound impact camp has on the community’s children and teens, the Board of Directors at YMCA of the Pines recently instated a policy that no child would get turned away, no matter their domestic or financial situation.

“It’s an awesome undertaking, but one that we’re committed to,” Dibble explained. “And we couldn’t serve the community in this way, or support worthy causes such as Nick’s scholarship fund, without the generosity of partners such as Republic Bank and CDC Deposits Corp. We’re incredibly grateful for the support.”

Dibble said he is especially gratified that Nick’s compassionate legacy will get to live on. “He is deeply missed by our entire camp community. This scholarship will help ensure that Nick’s memory remains connected with the organization forever.”

Hammel added: “Tragedies like these aren’t always visible to the outside world, but YMCA of the Pines has given the DiMona family, and the families of every child Nick’s scholarship fund reaches, an opportunity to grow and find fulfillment.”

To learn more about the scholarship fund named for Nicholas Peter DiMona III, reach out to Belz at suzette@ycamp.org

"As a community bank dedicated to the neighborhoods we serve, we’re grateful to be able to work with CDC’s Impact Deposit Program in order to use our bank’s deposits to serve local charities. Doing things at a grassroots level, where the impact is truly felt within the areas we serve, is where we focus our charitable efforts. We’re proud to champion this wonderful cause that helps deserving children in need."

Sharon Hammel, Chief Retail Officer at Republic Bank

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