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At Camp Nerden It's A Family Affair

Meriden sisters continue family tradition of volunteering at Middlefield camp.

In keeping with family tradition, 11 year old Nicole Tiezzi will spend most of her summer volunteering.

The soon-to-be sixth grader at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Meriden will join her two older sisters today in welcoming campers to Camp Nerden in Middlefield.

"My sisters always tell me how much fun it is, and how sweet the campers are," says the rookie volunteer.

A summer getaway for children and adults with special needs, Camp Nerden has been open for 46 years - long enough for three generations of the Tiezzi family to have volunteered there.

"My grandpa and my dad are in the Unison Club [in Meriden] and they donate to the camp. They do all sorts of work over there," explains 19 year old Tarah Tiezzi, who says her grandfather has been giving back to the camp for as long as it has been open.

"My grandpa told me about it, and my friends were volunteering so I figured I'd try it," she says.

By the time Tarah turned 16, she had already received the Outstanding Volunteer award - an award given to her by her peers - and was offered a paid position at the camp.

As a group leader, Tarah is not only responsible for training volunteers, she also oversees a group of about two dozen campers.

"I keep coming back because I love working with the kids and the adults, seeing how happy they are everyday when they come off the bus," she adds.

Following in her sister's footsteps, Taylor Tiezzi was just ten years old when she was awarded the Thomas M. Maloney award, an award given to the volunteer of the year at the camp.  

"I remember when they were giving out the awards I had to go to the bathroom. I did not think it was going to be me and when they called my name my jaw dropped," Taylor recalls. "I just always wanted to be helping someone."

Now 15, Taylor says she gets the most enjoyment from campers that return every summer and remember her. 

"That means a lot to me," she says.

Jackie Holowczyk, Director of Camp Nerden, says the atmosphere of the camp is much like a family.

"We're really just trying to appreciate the subtleties of life, the outdoors, the friendships," she says. "The connection you can find at the camp... it's kind of indescribable."

"It's going to be her first year," Holowczyk says about Nicole. "[11] is a young age, but it's not necessarily a drawback. It's a prime age to shape someone."

After dropping off last year, Holowczyk says more volunteers (about 20) have come forward this spring to help at the camp. She expects between 60-70 campers each day, many of whom are bused in from surrounding cities and towns.

Activities at Camp Nerden include swimming, music, arts and crafts, outdoor games and cook-outs every Wednesday.

All three sisters make time to work or volunteer at the camp while juggling other responsibilities. Tarah works part-time at a local bank while attending Tunxis Community College in Farmington. Taylor is an honor roll student at Platt High School and will be attending volleyball camp this summer. Nicole, meanwhile, is already attending basketball camp at Maloney High School, but says she's looking forward to joining her sisters at Camp Nerden.

"I think it will be really fun."

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