Sherwood Forest is fortunate to have found a friend in Betsey Comfort. For decades, she has been a loyal supporter and fierce advocate for the kids we serve as we have undergone site changes, leadership transitions, and introduced new programming throughout the years. When asked to share what Sherwood Forest has meant to her, no one says it better than Betsey herself.
Sherwood Forest has been working its magic for the benefit of St. Louis area underserved children since 1937. My association with Sherwood Forest goes back 47 years, to 1973, when, as a new teacher in the Clayton School District, I joined other teachers, 6th graders, and high school counselors in a week long camp experience at Sherwood Forest Camp, then located at Quiver River State Park in Troy, Missouri. For 16 of those years, I was the District Outdoor Education coordinator and I enjoyed and benefited from the informed collaboration our District had with Sherwood Forest Camp staff. When SFC left the Quivre River site and bought the Wiggins Camp in Lesterville in 1977, Clayton had tried several other sites for school camp. After two years of wandering in the wilderness, we were back at SFC because the expertise of Sherwood’s staff and the consistently excellent support they provided our staff and programs proved hard to beat. To this day, Clayton Schools bring their children, high school counselors and staff to SF for their camp programs.
As a Board member for almost 30 years and a past president, I have many special memories. The most vivid and compelling are those from camp visits, seeing the joy our kids take from their camp activities. They are able to choose many of their daily activities and can plan their days. Also vivid and impressive are memories of conversations with campers who’ve been in our programs a few years. They talk openly and with blooming confidence of their goals and ambitions. Our Leadership campers and grads stand up before a room full of Board members and donors, and deliver impassioned, informed talks about their life journey and their hopes and plans for their future. It’s thrilling! Other special memories are of the Board’s evolution, growth, and effectiveness over the years. When I joined the Board, the first big effort was to ask all Board members to commit to an annual donation. We’ve grown from that early endeavor to just completing a 6.2 million capital campaign, raising another million by the end of the campaign! We have also greatly enhanced Board membership by attracting more community stakeholders, so necessary, if we are to effectively meet the needs of all our worthy kids. We have paid attention to research in education and added reading and STEM programs to our summer curriculum. And most memorably, we have grown beyond our award winning summer programs to become a powerful, year-long learning place, a launching pad for kids into their best selves and a bright future. A dream long realized!
For those who might want to be contributing partners in Sherwood Forest’s youth opportunity programs, I would say that we are always grateful to partner with people who share our commitment to bring caring community, joy, nature’s healing beauty, life competencies and hope to children, youth and others whose lives lack opportunity. I would recount our long, proud history of successfully launching young people who have gained confidence in their strengths and abilities to meet life’s challenges. I would describe our programs that enable our kids to learn to respect others and the environment, to build strong relationships, to take personal responsibility, to resolve conflicts peacefully, and to be positive leaders through service to others. We are hugely successful at what we do. Our success stories number in the thousands. It’s an easy sell!
Sherwood Forest owes much of its success to Betsey, her leadership, and her continued passion for our mission of helping kids discover the best in themselves through camp. That fateful first trip to camp all those years ago led to a lifelong commitment that was integral to our growth and success. She exemplifies what it means to be a philanthropist – leaning in with love and offering her talents to help make the world a better place. Thank you for all you do, Betsey!