Action News 8′s, Skip Church Creates “Dustin’s Place”

dustins-placeI left my friend, Skip Church so inspired after learning about, and seeing what he and his wife Colleen and a ton of volunteers have done with a camp they are calling “Dustin’s Place.”

The slogan for Dustin’s Place is “where summer fun begins and life never ends.”

For those of you who have been around Connecticut for a long time you will remember that Skip Church was part of the sports department at Action News,  before we were News Channel 8 and now News 8.

When Skip was at the TV station he was also busy raising two young boys,  Dustin and Casey. I knew them both. Great kids. Both grew up and tragically six years ago this  July, 10th Dustin was killed, at the age of 18. He was in a car that was being driven by someone who had had too much to drink.

Skip and his family continue to heal. Helping them to march forward was an idea that popped into their heads about a camp that could be named after Dustin, a place for children to learn and have fun and also to learn to help others. The wheels of planning started to turn.

This year, Dustin’s Place” became reality and it was held for one week at beautiful Killam’s Point in Branford, Connecticut. Killam’s Point is a hidden gem along the shoreline. It is beautiful and there are views of some of the Thimble Islands from here. The site is owned by the First Congregation Church in Branford.

More than 100 campers took part in this very first “Dustin’s Place,” it will be a week they will never forget.

The Toy Closet at Yale New Haven Hospital, which I founded in 1993, was the recipient of the children’s give back lesson this year. The children made stuffed animals and it was a joy to see how proud they were of their creations. I got to witness first hand the pride these campers had in making something for a sick children.

As they put them into the boxes to be taken to the hospital, I watched as the smaller ones let go of their toys. Some were sad to see them go and they gently laid them into the boxes.  Into the piles they went, each with a note that had the maker’s name on it and a birth certificate with the date they were made. So cute kind of like a Cabbage Patch doll idea.

Ellen Good from Child Life at Yale-New Haven Hospital came out to see this donation happen too at the camp on the Connecticut shoreline.

Each group of campers with their counselors lined up for photos, I didn’t want to leave anyone out and I also shot a video for you to see as they gave away their toys. One of the counselors had a large picture of Dustin which drew some tears. I remember seeing that picture of Dustin at his funeral. He had bright red hair and a million dollar smile. It was great to see him right next to all those stuffed animals which will make a difference in a child’s life. This was one remarkable day.

It is Skip’s plan to expand “Dustin’s Place” to a full summer and then to someday have these camps all over the country.

Skip and his wife and Casey are growing their dream organically and are hoping it will go beyond their wildest imaginations. They’re onto to something. There are so many who have been touched by a drunk driving accident, I can’t help but think many will come together from all over the state to give this the shot in the arm that is needed.

Ultimately Skip would like to buy 40 or 50 acres and build “Dustin’s Place” somewhere near Long Island Sound where campers could come all summer long and play in the water and camp, swim, play games and roast marshmallows.

Dustin’s Place is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

If anyone would like to contact Skip about this camp you can do so by going to dustinsplaceinc@yahoo.com

I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

Photo Gallery

 

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Ann Nyberg

8 Comments

  1. Posted July 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I remember Skip from those Action News days. I am saddened to hear about such a tragic loss. Children are so full of promise and potential. I, too, am inspired by their strength, vision, and desire to celebrate his life in such a meaningful way!

  2. Kathy Andrews
    Posted July 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    What an inspiration this should be to all of us. I hope Skip and his family are doing well and have found this great idea to be a comfort to them. They have great plans, and I hope they get there!

  3. Helen
    Posted July 31, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    You hit it out of the park again Ann.

  4. Rev. Karl Duetzmann
    Posted August 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Ann, awesome article! What an GREAT event. It would be a wonderful thing to actually build “Dustin’s Place”. I remember meeting Skip at the home of a church member in Winchester Center, CT. He was there doing a story of about man named George Sherwood — a local historian and curator of the Winchester Kerosene Lamp Museum (located across the driveway from his). George lived next door to the church and I stopped by to visit him on my way home. I spoke with Skip for quite some time and ended up playing darts while we talked. He beat me soundly!!! I always thought it was funny for a local pastor to lose anything to someone named Skip Church.

    • Annie Mame
      Posted August 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      I think it would be so great to see Dustin’s Place really come alive in Connecticut and beyond, we need more places like this for children everywhere.

  5. sherri vincent
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    What a touching story! It would be nice if this camp could fill a need for families too,not many encourage parent involvement. It would be fun for us to “play” with our kids at camp too! Maybe we could build communication bridges and fond memmories together. We often like being involved, but we do not know what to do. A friendly game of table top tennis anyone? :0)

  6. John K.
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    When I worked with Skip, I can remember the loving way in which he referred to his family, particularly his two sons. I hope this helps mend their hearts. All the best to Skip, Colleen, and Casey.

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted April 8, 2011 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      John,
      Skip and Colleen are an amazing couple giving back in so many ways, just great folks who have persevered through a terrible tragedy.