History of Camp Hollis
On the morning of July 8, 1946, 27 boys and 27 girls from all over Oswego County got off buses to begin a new adventure. They were “pioneers” – the first to attend a camp program on the shores of Lake Ontario that continues today in an unbroken line. Physically the site has grown and buildings have changed, but the spirit and traditions have continued.
The story begins on January 1, 1945 when Eugene F. Sullivan began seven years as Oswego County Court and the Children’s Court Judge. Judge Sullivan loved children and his Saturday morning children’s Court sessions brought before him many youngsters who were there due to difficult situations at home. Many of these children had responsibilities too great for their years. He took special interest in the children at the two orphanages – Oswego Children’s and St. Francis Homes. He believed all children should have a chance to grow and to get along with others in a happy setting. He also believed that all children should be able to attend camp, regardless of their family’s financial situation. Judge Sullivan began to imagine what such a place would look like.
For many years the Judge’s mother-in-law had rented a summer cottage on Lake Ontario and he knew first hand the “magic” of the lake for children and adults. He also knew of the abandoned health camp on Lake Ontario run by Dr. LeRoy Hollis, superintendent of the Oswego County Sanitarium, Orwell. From 1928 – 1940 youngsters from economically and distressed homes spent six weeks at the camp and returned home with a better chance to hopefully avoid or be cured of tuberculoses, then a dreaded disease. In 1945 the decision was made to make the building at Lewis Bluff available again for a children’s camp. In 1946 Dr. Hollis died and the camp was named Camp Hollis in his honor.
Over the years Camp Hollis has changed from a total volunteer group who hired a camp director, nurse, cook, six counselors, two kitchen assistants and a part time maintenance man for six weeks to today’s year-round camp director who works with a staff and organizations to plan a variety of exciting new programs such as a Counselor-in-Training program for 15/16 year olds, a Safety Training Institute offering courses to certify people in health and safety areas and a Senior Camping program (for the young at heart) in the spring and fall, a bereavement camp for children who have lost a loved one (through Hospice of Oswego County) and a Day Camp. And Judge Sullivan’s dream to have a camp program that any child could attend regardless of family finances continues: In 1997, The Friends of Camp Hollis was formed to help raise money and offer scholarships for needy families to attend the camp.
Literally thousands of us are grateful that Camp Hollis exists and that the vitality and excitement of Camp Hollis is as impressive today as it was when it began. Long may it live!
Written by Jane Ann Sullivan Spellman
Edited by Jim Farfaglia