For More Than 130 years, Cradle Beach Has Been a Place of Happiness and Hope.
Founded in 1888 as the Fresh Air Mission, the organization was originally founded in order to serve underprivileged children from the city of Buffalo at a time when diseases such as typhoid and diphtheria were killing infants and children. With support from the community, the Fresh Air Mission sent children via horse and carriage to Cradle Beach on the shores of Lake Erie as a chance to escape the city and enjoy the opportunity to be outside in nature while also enjoying fresh food. The children initially slept in tents on the hill, swam in the water of Lake Erie, and ate together in a large farmhouse. For many years, the Fresh Air Mission continued to serve increasing numbers of children, eventually necessitating the building of more permanent cabins and the creation of supporting programs that enriched the camp experience.
In 1946, Cradle Beach welcomed their first group of children with special needs. With this transition, a new philosophy was implemented—that every child, even the most small or deprived, had importance and dignity. The children with special needs were integrated with their “well” peers even as the camp improved accessibility by setting cabins at ground level for campers utilizing wheelchairs and walkers and added a tunnel for children to cross Old Lakeshore Road.
50 years after the original camp renovations, Cradle Beach moved to its current location. Still on the shores of Lake Erie, the camp now includes more than 60 acres of beach, woods, and nature trails housing 15 cabins, a dining and recreation hall, computer lab, library, infirmary, and an arts and crafts center. Additionally, new outdoor facilities include a universally accessible playground, an adaptive challenge course, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, and a swimming pool that allows all children to enjoy the water—one of only a few such pools in New York State. There is also an accessible tree house for campers to enjoy.
With these upgrades, the Camp is available to children year-round, and new programs have been developed. A respite program was created for families who provided round-the-clock care for a family member with special needs. The respite program has grown to serve almost 192 families and is offered twelve weekends in the fall and spring. Cradle Beach is also proud to be able to open their facilities to organizations with similar missions to offer retreats and youth programs.
The flagship program remains Cradle Beach’s Residential Summer Enrichment Program, otherwise known as Summer Camp. Summer Camp serves children with special needs as well as those who come from low-income families from across Western New York. Much like operations in 1888, Camp continues to provide a healthy environment and organized activities to help promote socialization, independence, and good decision-making in a warm, loving, and accepting atmosphere.
Cradle Beach is extremely grateful for the many years of generosity and support the Variety Club Camping Program has provided. Each summer, the Variety Club Camping program provides 50 children the opportunity to attend Camp. The children who receive these “camperships” are children with special needs from low-income families. Many of these families experience financial hardship due to the care and medical expenses for their child, and Camp would not be possible for these children without Variety Club’s support. The funds from the Variety Club Camping program give these children 10 days at Cradle Beach, including the opportunity for swimming, arts and crafts, sleep-outs, bonfires, and S’mores.
Cradle Beach campers are also able to enjoy evening programs provided by the Variety Club. The children participate a fun-filled evening with an entertaining magic show followed by an evening snack.
With the ongoing support of the Variety Club and the rest of the Western New York community, Cradle Beach is positioned to continue providing memorable experiences to Western New York children for years to come.
For more information on Cradle Beach and their different programs click here https://www.cradlebeach.org/