“It’s just such a great place… it’s hard to describe it, because it’s a feeling.”

On the 66 acres at Cradle Beach, along Lake Erie, you’ll feel something you can’t anywhere else. You’ll also likely witness more smiles than you’ll see in the outside world. 

Those grins have been seen at the camp the past 130 years.

In 1888, the Angola camp started with the name, the ‘Fresh Air Mission.’

“There was a lot of disease going on in the inner-city in Buffalo (at that time),” Cradle Beach Board member, and West Herr’s Director of Sales, John Conciardo, said. “It was primarily to bring the economically-disadvantaged children out to camp, and feed them three square meals a day. They brought them out here on horse and buggy… and then it grew to this.”

The overnight camp now welcomes just about every kid who wants to come. That includes those with disabilities, those who require close medical attention, and those whose families may not be able to afford camp. It welcomes kids ages eight to 16 between June and August. 

“It’s just so welcoming, and it really brings people out of their shell,” staff member, and former camper, Maggie Foster said. “It can just introduce you to so many people, you kind of get a new view of the world.”

The camp says it revolves around safety, and having fun. 

“When you look at these children, economically-disadvantaged or special needs, and you see them interact together and play and have fun, and the activities, and it’s so organized, and it’s just perfect,” Consiardo said. “It just blows you away. I have to, I have no choice, I have to support this.”

Consiardo has been involved with the camp for about six years. He recently started a program called, Cradle Beach Crusaders. It’s his mission to raise $1 million in three years. That money will send campers to Angola for an entire summer: 800 kids will be paid for. 

That’s hundreds of more smiles, in a place that’s changing lives.