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Campagna Academy celebrates 75 years of serving at-risk youth

 093022Campagna Academy 1

Father Patrick Kalich (center) attended the 75th anniversary celebration for Campagna Academy Sept. 8 at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster. The retired pastor, who has served on the Campagna board of directors since 1995, was joined by St. Mary, Crown Point, parishioners: Nettie Stewart, Jan Mucha, Sister Joanne Marie Schutz, Julie Nesbit and Penny Pappas. (Photo by Lynda J. Hemmerling)




      SCHERERVILLE – Rooted in faith and commitment to overcoming challenges, Campagna Academy celebrated its 75th anniversary of helping at-risk youth by hosting a fundraiser dinner last month. With about 200 attendees, the event was held Sept. 8 at Munster Performing Arts Center.

      Father Patrick Kalich, retired pastor of St. Mary, Crown Point, and member of Campagna Academy’s board of directors since 1995, stressed that Campagna was founded on faith. “It’s important to realize that here we had a priest who, in addition to being pastor at Immaculate Conception in East Chicago, saw the need to provide support for youngsters who just needed to be loved,” he said.

      Monsignor Michael Campagna founded Hoosier Boys Town on Cline Avenue in Schererville in July 1947. The youngest of 11 children, he was born in Italy in 1904, and after six years in an Italian seminary, he came to America and landed in the Midwest.

      Thirty years after the original Boys Town was founded as an orphanage for boys by Father Edward J. Flanagan in December 1917, in the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska, Monsignor Campagna used his salesmanship, courage and devotion to God to do something similar and become a lasting example of love and faith, Father Kalich noted.

      Monsignor Campagna had even gone to Omaha and sought advice from Father Edward J. Flanagan who suggested that he not open the home because of the difficult workload. Nonetheless, it was done! He was given approval to purchase the land but no funding. “He developed a network of folks in the community… He was a salesman,” said Father Kalich.

      Monsignor Campagna purchased 105 acres of farmland in Schererville for $300 per acre. Hoosier Boys Town was formally dedicated in July and on Aug. 1, 1947, three boys arrived. In less than a week, Hoosier Boys Town was filled to capacity, shared Elena Dwyre, chief executive officer for Campagna.

      Dwyre said there is no doubt that faith was, and still is, a key attribute of the success of Campagna. Monsignor Campagna taught that with determination and strong faith, anything is possible in making a positive impact in the life of a child in need, she explained. “Although we are not faith-based legally,” she said, “we receive great support from the Diocese (of Gary). Part of who we are (as an organization) touches on faith in general, faith in children and faith in humanity in general.”

      In addition to the residential care available on the current 47-acre campus, there is a “full continuum of care” available for children to enter or exit based on the level of care needed, Dwyre said. Care can include therapeutic foster care, emergency shelter care, intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment program and more.

      It is important to note that while maintaining a steadfast mission, Campagna is always adapting to the needs of its children and families, she stressed. “While we look different than we did in 1947, our mission remains the same and we continue to put children and the families that we serve at the forefront of everything we do,” Dwyre said.

      Appreciative of all who have helped Campagna reach this significant milestone, Dwyre was thrilled by the community support at this year’s fundraiser. She said, “Thanks to the generosity of our supporters over the years, we have been able to expand our programs and enhance our services to meet the growing needs of children and families in the region and the state. We are also celebrating that we are finally debt free.”

      In addition to food, drinks and auction items, the event included the opportunity to “send a kid to camp.” Guests were invited to support through donation a one-week Adventure Summer Camp for residential kids, of which there are about 50. Completely funded by donations, the Adventure Summer Camp provides students with outlets for fun, a distraction from their classes, therapies and challenges, explained Dwyre.

      Typically, Campagna has accommodated about 100 students, ages 10 to 21, but is currently limited because of a staffing crisis. Anyone with an interest in helping restore hope and building dreams for at-risk youth is encouraged to consider applying for a job.

      Father Kalich added that he hopes people may find a calling to work at Campagna. “I grew up in Lake County and probably had driven by there hundreds and hundreds of times, and I never realized the treasure it was, the setting for children who would otherwise be in very difficult situations.”

      “As I look forward to the future of Campagna Academy, I know that success is inevitable because of our committed staff, volunteers, donors and the board of directors who guide us,” Dwyre said.

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