Family Traditions and the New Sailing Center

The story behind camp's new sailing center
By Arthur L. Holden
Parker Holden, GPYMCA Volunteer Trustee and Board President of the 1960-70s as pictured in the GPYMCA Board Room

Since Camp Fuller’s founding in 1887, family traditions have been at the heart of Camp’s culture.    Over the past 134 years, countless families and their members have attended Fuller to enjoy its unique salt water camping experience and to grow mind, body and spirit.  First-born children would venture to Fuller, adjust to living away from their families, and quickly become passionate about their new “Fuller family” and all it had to offer.   Their younger siblings would often follow in their footsteps.  In many cases, campers evolved into the next generation of Fuller counselors and leaders, passionately influencing the lives of their campers as they had been influenced before them.   Fuller has been a “family affair” for many.

Fuller Visiting Day, August, 1967. (from left to right: Andrew, Marion, Peter, Arthur and David Holden)

My siblings and I attended Fuller during the 1960 and `70s.  During this era, many families had multiple siblings attend camp, often sponsored by parents who were passionate not only about the benefits of YMCA camping experiences, but also eager to give back to Fuller with their time, talents and treasure.  

During our era, the family names of Avedesian, Geary, Jackson, Leslie, Norris, Ressler, Wilkes, and Holden come to mind… just to name a few.   For the Holden family, the YMCA and its offerings were central to our family tradition.  Our father, Parker Holden, was deeply committed to the values and benefits of “the Y”.  His father held volunteer, leadership positions in their small YMCA in Middleboro, MA during the 1920s and 30s.  The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, as Parker served on the Greater Providence YMCA (GPYMCA) Board of Trustees during the 1960s into the early 1970s.  He was Board Chairman during our years as campers at Fuller.    

July, 1971 Andrew (Junior Division Counselor) and Arthur Holden (Sherman Division Counselor and Ski Master) on a much needed "day off"

As his father had done years before, Parker instilled in our family the virtues of the YMCA and the importance of giving back to community organizations that impact their lives in meaningful ways.  During our youth, Parker was a dedicated supporter of all things GPYMCA and regularly donated to the various YMCA capital campaigns.  For me, the dye was cast at an early age.   As a first year camper in Sherman Division, I would walk by the Sherman Division sign and wonder who was this “Sherman guy”,  who so kindly donated cabins so we could safely sleep inside, while my older brothers risked their life and limbs bunking in flimsy tents where “Greenie” could enter with little resistance?  I reflected he must have been kind and generous, and loved Fuller very much.  I thought it was wonderful he gave back to help young campers like me have a better Fuller experience.  It was only later I learned, Sherman division was made possible by the generosity of Edwin F. Sherman, who in 1949 was the main benefactor behind my “first division” at Fuller.

August, 2016 - Fuller's newly completed Sailing Center

Camp Fuller is all about its waterfront and related activities.  The waterfront is the heart and soul of the "Fuller experience".  Its sailing, swimming, water sports, and coastal marine biology programs remain the most popular activities and the genesis of many of our alumni’s fondest memories.  This calm, sheltered expanse of Point Judith (Salt) Pond has offered Fuller campers endless possibilities to explore, learn, discover themselves and connect with others.   In the spring of 2012, I was invited back to Fuller (after almost 35 years away from Camp) to receive a philanthropic award for my work to raise scholarship funds for disadvantaged youth, so they too might enjoy the Fuller experience.  

Peter Swain, then Fuller’s executive director, led my brother Dave and me  on a walk around to see the Fuller campus we so dearly love.   The campus retained most of its rustic beauty, but we were shocked to see the waterfront facilities were “battered and aged”.  The boathouse was in desperate need of replacement. It was a fire hazard and in many ways unsafe.  We were aghast at the waterfront’s run down condition.   It was clear Fuller’s boathouse needed to be replaced by a new, safe and functional building (for campers and staff alike) to support programming central to Fuller’s high quality waterfront experience.   It was on this walk, I committed to Peter Swain I would help galvanize a team effort to build Fuller a new sailing center and improve the surrounding waterfront.  From this conversation, the Turner Point Development Project (TPDP) was born.

The old Boathouse from the cove

In the spring of 2012, Jim Berson (then GPYMCA CEO) asked me to Chair the Camp Fuller Turner Point Capital Campaign.  I enthusiastically accepted the challenge, knowing full well that for the prior decade a number of similar efforts had failed to produce any meaningful results.  I felt if we formed a strong project team (which brother Dave joined), clearly defined the project’s objectives, put forth a realistic budget/capital plan and aggressively worked to engage Fuller alumni for support we could make the TPDP happen.   Our TPDP project objectives were simple, straightforward and elevating:

  1. To replace the existing boathouse (built in 1963) with a new 21st century sailing and educational  center,
  2. To replace the existing swimming area retaining wall with a new retaining/wall and water front sitting area that defined the swimming area and minimized beach erosion,
  3. To beatify the TP waterfront via an integrated landscaping plan, congruent with the natural Salt Pond habitat, and
  4. To provide unique (long-term) opportunities for Camp Fuller alumni, friends and supporters to be recognized for their volunteer support and financial contributions to Camp Fuller.

We also set out a number of TPDP milestones, which were by and large met in a timely manner:

  1. Establish the Project Steering Committee and Sub-committees (i.e. Project Management and Fund Raising) (July `12)
  2. Finalize the TPDP project requirements definition (Aug `12)
  3. Finalize the concept design, preliminary drawings, and planning budget (Dec `12)
  4. Commence filings for coastal regulatory approvals (April `13)
  5. Secure project and vendor management support (April `13)
  6. Issue a Request for a Proposal (RFP) for architectural support (May`13)
  7. Launch the quiet phase of the capital campaign (Summer`13)
  8. Launch the open phase of the capital campaign (Fall `13)
  9. Complete the capital campaign’s feasibility phase (Summer `14)
  10. TPDP groundbreaking ceremony (August, `14)
  11. Execute the “Phase 1” TPDP construction phase (Fall `14 through Summer `15)
  12. Dedicate the Fuller’s new Sailing Center and Waterfront (August, `15)
August, 2014 - TPDP Groundbreaking Ceremony (from left to right: Jim Berson, David Shine, David Avedesian, Arthur Holden, David Edmonds, Karin Leslie, and Peter Swain)

The members of the TPDP Capital Campaign and Project Leadership Committee were:

  • Arthur Holden (Campaign and Committee Chairman/volunteer)
  • David Shine and Paul Sheinkopf (Campaign Co-Chair/volunteers)
  • David Holden (Project Management/volunteer)
  • David Avedesian (Fund Raising and Spiritual Driver Support/volunteer)
  • Jim Berson  (GPYMCA President)
  • Ethan Kehoe (GPYMCA Executive President for Development)
  • Carl Brown (GPYMCA Special Projects Manager)
  • Peter Swain (GPYMCA Director, Camp Fuller Branch)
  • Oyster Works and Amara Associates (Architects), and
  • New England Construction (Contractors)
Exhibit #1 - Oyster Works' initial concept designs for the new Sailing Center (Phase 1) and a potential new Marine Biology Center (Phase 2)

Critical to our efforts, was the development of a plan to raise the required $1.25M of capital necessary to fund the initial phase of the TPDP (i.e. the new sailing center and a rebuilt waterfront … see Exhibit #1 above, which displays Oyster Works initial designs for the TPDP).  While Fuller had engaged its alumni in a number of fund raising endeavors over the years, primarily for scholarships and small building projects, it had never aspired to raise such a large sum for such a vital project.   This effort would materialize into the largest building/campaign in Fuller’s long history.  

After securing a number of “foundational gifts”, the committee set out to develop a fundraising database and identify giving targets.   We develop our targets and communication materials so they could easily be e-mailed to Fuller friends and alumni.  We aspired to not only raise the required funding, but also to renew old Fuller relationships and reengage alumni in Camp affairs.   The bulk of funds were raised on the back of personal conversations between committee members and prospective donors.  We wanted the effort to strengthen Fuller’s amazing alumni network… and we believe it did just that!

May, 2016 - The new Fuller Sailing Center during construction
August, 2016 - Fuller's new Sailing Center Dedication - Key Fuller Alumni TPDP Volunteers (from left to right: David Holden, David Shine, David Avedesian, and Arthur Holden)

Over the better part of two years, the Committee’s efforts secured $1,241,000 in total pledges and gifts.  $586,000 pledges and gifts came from Fuller friends and alumni (110 donors).  In addition, $655,000 in pledges and gifts came from the GPYMCA, Fuller Related Trusts and Foundations.  These included a GPYMCA “debt donation” of $250,000, a Camp Fuller Dean Trust donation of $250,000, an Annie E. Casey Foundation donation of $90,000, and a Camp Fuller Tucker Trust donation of $65,000.    These Fuller supporters responded to our efforts and provided us with significant philanthropic support.  

A summary of the TPDP Capital Campaign results are summarized in Exhibit 2, as well as posted on the wall of Fuller’s new sailing center.  Again, we deeply appreciate the generous support of all those Fuller alumni and friends that donated to this wonderful effort.  Through their generosity, they will help enable thousands of future youth experience the joys of learning and developing on Fuller’s beautiful waterfront.  Thank you to all who contributed to make the TPDP happen!

In grateful recognition to all our donors, click HERE for a full listing.

August, 2016 - Fuller's new Sailing Center Dedication Ceremony - Presentation of the plaque honoring the project's committee and dedicating the building in "Memory and Recognition of Parker Holden's Service to the GPYMCA
August, 2016 - Fuller's new Sailing Center Dedication - Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Arthur L. Holden

March 2021 -- Sarasota, Florida