Wegmans’ Buffalo Division ‘Adopts’ Cradle Beach Camp

On the shores of Lake Erie in Western New York sits Cradle Beach Camp. It started out as a camp to bring underprivileged children from the City of Buffalo to get fresh air for the Summer. That was over 100 years ago, and Cradle Beach has since expanded its mission and location, now bringing children with disabilities to the camp, providing much needed respite for their families.

A few years ago, Cradle Beach approached Wegmans to help support a capital campaign. It took the Wegmans Buffalo team one visit to the camp to see what a truly special place it is. The camp welcomes children up to age sixteen, who come from across the region to spend a week swimming; playing sports; doing theater, arts and crafts; exploring in the woods; and just having fun. With one counselor for every camper with a disability, those experiencing their first time away from home and family have all the support they need.

Wegmans team members wanted to help Cradle Beach Camp, which sits on 66 acres and is subjected to harsh Lake Erie winters. Maintaining a camp of this magnitude takes a lot of time, money, and resources, and instead of simply writing a check, they decided to “adopt” the camp. For three years, hundreds of Wegmans employees spent countless hours at the camp, doing work the staff didn’t always have the time to do. They also recruited outside vendors who work in our stores – electricians, plumbing contractors, landscaping companies, and construction crews – to do whatever it took to get the most pressing tasks done to keep the camp safe and functional for the campers and staff.

Employees from Wegmans' Buffalo Division paint a railing at Cradle Beach.

“Organization, simplification, streamlined processes and procedures, in-kind resources, building revitalization and upgrades, grounds clean up, repairs & beautification, beach clean-up, rock painting, signage, the list goes on and on,” said Ann-Marie Orlowski, Cradle Beach Executive Director. “The community support and kindness offered by Wegmans year after year has been a true gift.”

With 38 buildings on the campus and miles of paved trails, the Wegmans maintenance team inspected each building, providing the camp with a manual to determine the most pressing projects to tackle for the future. The idea was to create a sustainable plan so that the same tasks weren’t necessary every year, and the camp could focus on the most important part of the mission, the campers.

A group of Wegmans employees gather on the beach.

“We wanted to provide a resource for Cradle Beach, so when they are asking a donor to fund a major project, they can point to the most critical needs on the grounds, knowing that they’ve all been inspected, addressing any safety and longevity concerns,” said Mike Keating, Wegmans Buffalo Division Manager. “The idea was to allow the camp to focus on the campers, not the grounds, long after our three-year commitment”.

Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented the camp from opening for the Summer 2020 season, but Wegmans volunteers were still there, ensuring the camp would be ready when the time came. Now, they’re excited to bring campers back, at reduced levels for safety.

As the Wegmans team says goodbye to Cradle Beach, they leave behind a safe, well-maintained camp with a bright new entrance sign to welcome a new set of campers to the shores of Lake Erie, ready to make memories that last a lifetime.