Project New Hope exists to provide veteran family retreats. Including the whole family (even the kids!)
is unique to Project New Hope and fosters family togetherness through a wilderness getaway.
It is our goal to provide combat veterans and their families with the education, training, and skills necessary to manage
their lives after wartime service :: repair of relationships is a primary goal. And of course, have fun in the process!
Right now we are family-oriented, but future camps will include single soldiers and veterans of other conflicts.
NO COST TO PARTICIPANTS. That's right. There is no cost to the families on the retreat.
While the camp offers an unstructured weekend, counseling sessions are provided for those interested in the service. Mary Reeves, a marriage and family therapist in Owego, has volunteered for all the weekend retreats since the program's inception. An Army wife herself, Reeves has a unique insight into the particular troubles endemic to a military marriage.
Lions Camp Badger is located in Spencer, New York, approximately 20 miles south of Ithaca, located on more than 200 acres of beautiful hills, including more than 100 acres of hiking, swimming pool, and lake. Project New Hope will be hosting weekend retreats for veterans of conflict and their families.
Contact Marv Hankinson for 2018 schedule
Background: Project New Hope began in the fall of 2008 when Lions Club member, Bruce Billington - an avid outdoorsman, of Crosslake, Minnesota
viewed the value of weekend camps for people with disabilities. Considering the peaceful natural setting and the value of getting away from the
roles of the Army base and home life, he thought that such an experience might help combat veterans working to integrate back into normal family
life and routines. His idea was picked up by the Lions Clubs and has been spreading across the United States and into Canada.
National Need: Multiple deployments have beaten down veterans and their families. The ability to cope with problems and stresses is worn away by extended and frequent absences from home. As a result, the incidents of divorce, domestic violence, suicide, and homelessness are greater among the veterans than the civilian population and at unprecedented levels in the history of the Army. Because of the overwhelming need, for the first time the Army Chaplain Corps, with the approval of the Department of Defense, has been reaching out into the local communities to organize and create programs to help veterans.
Local Needs: In addition to our active duty veterans, the New York National Guard and Reserves are experiencing the largest deployments in their history. Project New Hope helps 10 veterans and their families with retreats at local retreat/camps. Lives are changed dramatically and the impact is profound. It is a small part, but it is the Lion’s part – and it makes a difference that will be felt a lifetime. It is our hope to expand this program to help military members of all branches of service, single soldiers, and veterans of past wars - Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, WW2 and the many conflicts in between.
The Lions Connection
Local Lions Clubs organize the retreats, set up the counseling and speakers, provide youth activities and childcare, and help plan the family activities for the weekend.
All of this is possible because people in your community care - members of your local Lions Club. They care so much that they are willing to donate their money, their time, and their presence to make sure every veteran and their family get a chance to find a little help, people who care, a whole lot of fun, and a whole lot of hope for the future. Stop by and visit a local Lions Club soon
Receiving Help Leads to Helping Others
After being hit by three roadside bombs during his tour in Iraq, SSG (retired) Mike Mills had burns on 35 percent of his body. Mike and his wife came to one of Project New Hope’s first retreats in Minnesota and received help.
“When you’re in the military, you’re told to suck up and drive on. If you accept help, you’re weak. And if you go for help, you’re going to be passed over for promotion and that’s not true ... we need the help,” said Mike.
Mike and his wife are now Lions Club members of the Project New Hope advisory panel. After donating their time at these retreats, many counselors from the Veterans Administration also become Lions.
As seen in Elmira Star Gazette, Ithaca Journal & Binghamton Bulletin
SPENCER - The pavement gave way first to gravel and then to dirt as the road cut through the
rise and swale of the back country. Somewhere the dense white pines fended off the last remnants
of cell phone signals, and only then did the camp appear, a sudden refuge on the forested hilltop.
Snug along the southern edge of the Danby State Forest, the more than 200 acres at Lions Camp
Badger in Tioga County has become the sporadic weekend retreat for Project New Hope, a
program designed to give military service members and their families a stress-free time to recover
from the burdens of military life.
At the end of August, 75 people from 19 families, most the wives and family of deployed members of the 108th New York National Guard Alpha Company, came together to share the experience - with its undergirding emotions of fear, isolation, anxiety - of having a loved one far away at war. The second of four retreats planned this summer, the camp turns into an ideal place for military families to forget for a moment the effects of service on the makeup of an individual and a family.
In simple cabins huddled under the forested canopy, the camp offers quietude and fellowship in a wilderness far from the disruptions and worry of everyday life. From a Friday evening to Sunday morning, the families rejuvenate in a low-stress environment with an open pool, paddleboats on the pond, trails through the woods, dining in the lodge and even massages during a getaway with all expenses covered by the project.
While the most recent weekend welcomed families of deployed service members, Project New Hope offers itself to anyone who has served in the military, from recent conflicts to World War II. The need of veterans of past wars has not diminished as many still retain emotional damage that never fully healed, said Marvin Hankinson, a Navy veteran and board chairman at Project New Hope New York.
Veterans of the Vietnam War especially had a hard time integrating, Hankinson said. "Many of them have never opened up and never spoken about some of the things they were involved in. As a result, families have suffered from it." Domestic conflicts are all too common for military families, Hankinson said. Surrounded by other military families, the weekend retreats offer at once fellowship and relaxation, with an aim to repair relationships. "If you have people that have had similar experiences years ago and young people that are just experiencing it now, they realize this is not a new thing that is happening," Hankinson said. "It's something that has always been connected to military. It helps them to understand."
Founded in Minnesota in 2007 with the mission to provide families and returning soldiers the skills necessary to manage their lives once their wartime service ends, Project New Hope has expanded to camps spread across 10 states. Healing does not always come easy to soldiers not accustomed to admitting vulnerability, and helping them find footing within a family dynamic that often feels jarring after a return from active duty. It's all part of the process of healing and embarking on the difficult transition of beginning again.
At Lions Camp Badger, the only project camp so far in New York, the wilderness location fit naturally into the spirit of Project New Hope. The camp has served as a refuge in different forms since its founding in 1929 when it was built by the public work relief program civilian conservation corps during the lean times of the Depression. By the 1940s the camp had evolved into a summer school for speech therapy run by Ithaca College professor Dr. Ralph Jones, making it the second oldest such program in the country. In 1947 a former student in the program named Ed Badger joined the staff as a counselor and then, in 1955, took ownership of the camp that would one day bear his name. For decades students came for therapy for cleft palates, stuttering and other voice problems before Badger retired and passed ownership to the New York State Lions Club in 1980. Over the years the camp continued to serve hearing and speech ailments and expanded to others, welcoming developmentally disabled children for summers and providing a day camp for urban youths. With its history as a refuge and place of healing, Hankinson thought it could be transformed once again. Inthe wilderness, with no television and no cell reception, military personnel could forget their troubles for a weekend surrounded in the restorative power of nature. "I thought this was a perfect spot, a quiet spot," he said.
While the camp offers an unstructured weekend, counseling sessions are provided for those interested in the service. Mary Reeves, a marriage and family therapist in Owego, has volunteered for all the weekend retreats since the program's inception. An Army wife herself, Reeves has a unique insight into the particular troubles endemic to a military marriage."How do you juggle all of what your duties are at home plus your duties of having to be deployed," Reeves said of the concerns often raised in sessions. "How do you make it work; how do you make marriage work?" Many, it seems, can't. Last year the divorce rate for military marriages was the highest it had been since 1999, and higher than their civilian counterparts. According to Reeves the strains of military life quickly pull on the fabric of a marriage at each end of the military experience, whether from the loneliness of a deployment to the domestic troubles of a returning service member reintegrating within a family that has had to learn to live without him. The short time available during a weekend retreat means a focus on group therapy and little chance for breakthrough, but opening that dialogue is a necessary first step. "Because they are all kind of in it together, they can understand each other's circumstances. 'OK, you got through it, you survived, there's hope for us' ," Reeves said.
Be careful when using a GPS system or a program like Mapquest. It gives some seasonal and/or dead-end roads in the directions to the camp.
It is a good idea to consult a New York State road map when traveling to the camp. If you are close but not quite sure, stop and ask directions.
Most area residents will be able to guide you. You may call us at 607-589-4800 (or 800-232-7060) and we will be happy to give you directions.
FROM THE NORTH (ITHACA) The Camp is located 14 miles south of Ithaca, New York. Travel approximately 10 miles south from Ithaca on Route 96B South through Danby, turn right on South Danby Road. Take a right on Fisher Settlement Road. The camp is located approximately 3.5 miles on the left. Or Travel south on Route 13/34/96. Follow the signs for Route 34/96 South to Spencer. Travel approximately 17 miles. Shortly after the "Welcome to Spencer" sign, take next left(sharp) onto Fisher Settlement Road. The camp is located 4 miles on the right. Fisher Settlement will turn into a dirt road, the camp is about one more mile on the right. FROM THE EAST/SOUTHEAST If traveling from the Binghamton, NY area and points east/southeast: follow Route 17/Interstate 86 to Exit 64 "Rte 96/Owego/Ithaca", and follow signs for Rte 96 North towards Ithaca. In Candor, NY, follow Route 96 (not 96B) to Spencer, NY. At the traffic light in Spencer, make a right onto Routes 34/96 North. Travel 1 mile and make a right onto Fisher Settlement Rd. The camp is located 4 miles on the right. Fisher Settlement will turn into a dirt road, the camp is about one more mile on the right. FROM THE WEST/SOUTHWEST If traveling from the Elmira, NY area and points west: from Interstate 86/Route 17, take Exit 54 "Route 13N Ithaca". In Alpine Junction, turn right on Route 224. In the town of Van Etten, Route 224 will turn into Route 34N. Follow Route 34N to Spencer. At the traffic light in Spencer, turn left onto Routes 34/96 North. Travel 1 mile and make a right onto Fisher Settlement Rd. The camp is located 4 miles on the right. Fisher Settlement will turn into a dirt road, the camp is about one more mile on the right.
Drop Us a Line
You may also reach us by phone:
Or by email
How to Donate or Help
1. Donate money. It costs about $3,000 to put on one retreat - all donations are tax deductible (we are a 501(c)(3) organization) and you'll get a
receipt at the end of the year, or sooner if you desire. To donate money please use the contact page and send
an email to Project New Hope NY.
2. Donate time. Help out by volunteering and get personally involved with putting on these weekend retreats - Click here.
3. Join your local Lions Club and get involved with a great bunch of people who enjoy helping others - Click here.
You could be really awesome and do all three!
How can a Vet sign up?
Just send us an email from the contact page to get started
What should I bring?
Not quite camping, but you will need a sleeping bag and pillow. Bring any necessary toiletries you'll need (tooth brush, etc). Be sure babies and toddlers have their special need items. Dress for the time of year.
Concepts and Objectives
a. To recognize the needs of the Veteran’s and individual family members in awareness of military related occupational stress injuries.
b. To offer tools for recognizing symptoms and triggers.
c. To assist in developing coping mechanisms within the family structure and assisting all members of the family with living a fulfilled life while learning to manage the injury/injuries.
a. To help the Veteran lead a better life, privately and publicly, thus becoming more productive in society.
b. To help improve their quality of life by recognizing triggers, possible addictions, intimacy issues, financial issues, anger management, complex communication issues, and sleep disorders.
c. To provide the tools to aid the Veterans in regard to stress management. The retreat will offer group support that will provide the Veteran with a continuous peer support network afterwards.
d. To educate the Veteran on support services that are available through Veteran’s Affairs and possibly other organizations (Army Community Services, Veteran clubs).
a. To aid the spouse in recognizing symptoms, suicidal ideations, triggers, symptoms of substance abuse, and signs of depression.
b. To assist the spouse in coping with triggers, stress issues, addictions, money issues, verbal battery, and anger.
c. To create and foster a peer support network of other spouses who understand what they are going through.
a. To help the children recognize what the term “trigger” means, and how the triggers affect their parent(s).
b. To offer the children tools to assist them with coping with adult issues without having the child be brought into the adult issues: “It’s absolutely okay to be a child right now, and you did nothing wrong.”
Weekend Events Itinerary
The typical weekend is 10 veterans and their families or 20 adults and approximately 20 children: noting that some have kids and some don’t – approximately 40 total.
In the future, we may have a mixed group of married and single veterans, but the total adults is not more than 20 (There is a need to keep these groups on the small
side due to possible issues of the post-combat veterans).
For the typical retreat weekend, families arrive Friday afternoon/evening, get settled in their room and then go to dinner. After dinner, everyone will gather at the campfire for a welcome session to talk about the weekend and what all is involved.
During Saturday, some sessions are planned with guest speakers on a variety of topics you chose when filling out the application. Counselors will be available to talk to couples all through the weekend. Down time is built in. The parents attend some topical sessions on Saturday from about 9am to 2 or 3pm, with a break for lunch. The kids are off doing activities with the volunteers. Everyone meets for lunch in the dining area. The last session will end at approximately 2 or 3pm on Saturday, so the parents and kids have time to do something together before dinner.
On Sunday morning we have breakfast and then have a brief (attendance optional) non-denominational service. Then after the service, the parents and kids can do anything they want until lunch. After lunch everyone departs.