Lisa Meiner receives an “Oscar” award for her many years of participation in the events at Camp Winnebago.
Lisa Meiner receives an “Oscar” award for her many years of participation in the events at Camp Winnebago.

Camp Winnebago's annual "Puttin' on the Ritz" fundraiser was held at the camp's main dining hall on Saturday, Oct. 19. Participants were able to enjoy a dinner of stuffed pork loin, hear testimonials from campers, take part in a live and silent auction, along with witness an awards ceremony for the camps major supporters. Bob Burns served as master of ceremonies for the event.

The theme for this year's event was "Hollywood Glitz," and participants were encouraged to attend dressed as their favorite movie character. The facility was also decorated with posters from various movies to match the evening's theme.

The annual event provides an opportunity for the campers and staff to showcase the events and accomplishments of the past season along with raise funds for continuing operations. Len Liptack spoke of the opportunities the camp had given his children. "Both our boys can come here and experience diversity - not only from around the world geographically but with people with different abilities.... It's not that people are higher and lower levels but that we all have different ways we do things. It really was a wonderful experience."

Staff member Erika Kampe from Sweden remarked that she hopes to be back for next year's camping program. "This is where my heart is," remarked Kampe.

"The campers are so kind, so rewarding, and I hope to come back again next summer, and so does Zach, because we love it so much," said volunteer Anna Thessing with her twin brother Zach. The pair then led participants in singing the Camp Winnebago theme song.

Camp director Barb Cage said "Puttin' on the Ritz" is Camp Winnebago's signature fundraiser each year. Last year they raised around $20,000 at the event in rural Caledonia. "We always try to showcase our campers and our mission, so it is a good time for people to learn what we really do. The public doesn't really know that we do inclusive day camp...we had a fairly large group of kids that came from Spring Grove this year."

Nine "Oscar" awards were given to the camp's supporters during the awards ceremony. Among them included Mathy Construction, Erika Kampe, Mike Meyer, Caledonia Ready Mix, Lisa Meiners, Roger Vick, Eitzen Lions and Caledonia Lumber. Students from Luther College and various other schools volunteered their musical talents for the evening during dinner. Live auction services were provided by Steven Schuldt of McCormick-Schuldt Auctioneers of Caledonia.

Camp Winnebago has celebrated its 45th season this year. The mission of the camp is to enhance through diversity of experiences the self-worth, independence and quality of life for people with developmental disabilities. Tickets are still available for Camp Winnebago's "Puttin' on the Ritz' - Hollywood Classics" event at the Rochester International Events center on Oct. 25.