The Venture organization is a not-for-profit provider for habilitative services and family-like care to the developmentally disabled of Rockland County, New York, committed to establishing for those in its care a quality of life, wealth of opportunity and choice, warmth of concern and potential for growth equal to that available to their non-retarded peers in this suburban community.
Venture is, moreover, an advocate for their rights, liberties and opportunities of all developmentally disabled persons in society, a champion of their right to be valued and dignified in the community, and a protagonist for their liberation from the cultural prejudice that limits full acceptance of their birthright as Americans.
With the creation of the Exceptional Child Parent-Teacher Association in 1968, parents of the retarded and disabled in Rockland County began to unite as advocates of their children and to explore ways to develop a life course for their special children that matched that which normal children enjoyed.
Elected President of the PTA, Kathleen Lukens began to organize resources from Rocklandâ€™s towns, businesses, and private citizens to establish a day camp for the countyâ€™s handicapped youngsters. With the aid of then-state assemblyman Eugene Levy, Lukens and a handful of other courageous parents gathered 85 children and launched Camp Venture at Clark Center in the Town of Ramapo in 1969. After spending its second year at the Rosary Academy in Sparkill, Camp Venture settled in to its present headquarters just north of Letchworth Village in Stony Point in 1971.
During the construction of the summer camp, Ventureâ€™s staffers became familiar with many of the residents of Letchworth Village, a state facility for the mentally ill and handicapped which had suffered greatly because of a hiring freeze imposed by then-NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Lukens, who had been appointed by Rockefeller as a consumer advocate for his Committee for Children, publicly denounced the deplorable conditions at Letchworth and called on the governor to address the situation immediately.
While reform at Letchworth and other state institutions slowly began to take place, Camp Ventureâ€™s small band of parents saw their mission expand to include not just their own children, but the welfare of all mentally impaired people in the county.
In 1976, with the combined fundraising efforts of Lukens and Tappan resident and local political activist John Murphy, 21 adults were able to move in to Venture Inn, the first home for the mentally retarded and disabled in Rockland County.
Two years later saw the opening of Venture West, a second group home for 14 adults in Monsey, and establishment of Ventureâ€™s Workshop, a day program designed to teach employment skills to mentally impaired adults. Two more group homes opened in 1979 and 1980, and in 1981, the Venture Voice, a newspaper devoted to the disabled, was born.
Since then, Camp Venture made great strides in improving the quality of life of the developmentally disabled. Ventureâ€™s Center for Learning day treatment program for the severely impaired was established in 1989, and Ventureâ€™s doll made for and by the disabled, Dolly Downs, was introduced to the world in 1992 and appeared on national television and several renowned publications, including the New York Times
Venture has also built four beautiful pools for the individuals we serve, as well as the Kathleen Lukens Living Center, a new independent living center for adults with developmental disabilities in Sparkill.
Ventureâ€™s â€œPond of the 200,000â€³ is a memorial honoring the people with physical and mental disabilities put to death by the Nazis during World War II. Dedicated at a ceremony presided over by Cardinal John Oâ€™Connor, the Pond is not only a remembrance of those who died, but a somber reinforcement of the Venture familyâ€™s pledge to vigilantly guard the future of the disabled.
And as evidence of Ventureâ€™s desire to provide a continuum of care for all those we serve, weâ€™ve recently added a new wing to the agencyâ€™s first residence, Venture Inn. This addition houses a first-of-its-kind Alzheimerâ€™s Unit, providing a warm and supportive environment for members of the Venture family who are now struggling with this devastating disease.
Venture continues to look to the families of people with developmental disabilities in Rockland County, striving to develop new and innovative programs and approaches to address the unmet needs of our neighbors with mental retardation.