The Lions Camp Tatiyee in the White Mountains provides an outdoor experience for physically and developmentally challenged people from age seven through adult.
As the 49th summer camping season ends, the Lions Club of Payson is already fund-raising for the 2008 season at Tatiyee.
"We are selling $10 a piece raffle tickets for a four-person, two-night stay at Christopher Creek Village plus $50 cash to cover the cost of gas," said local club member George Spears.
Lions Club members will sell tickets through Dec. 4, so the mini-vacation date is flexible into 2008.
"Camp Tatiyee is one of the most important things we do," Spears said.
Sponsorship of one person at the camp is currently $650.
In the five decades since Lion Jim Busey established the nonprofit Tatiyee, campers have never paid a fee to spend a week there.
Camp runs from the end of May through the beginning of August. This year 420 people were able to attend.
"When we are fully funded, over 600 can attend," said director Pam Swanson.
Applications go out Jan. 22 each year and places are available to those who meet the guidelines on a first come, first served basis.
Busey's goals are realized each year when challenged individuals find self-confidence and independence among their peers.
"I could have never been as independent as I am today or have the drive to succeed without the support and love of this camp. I will always be a supporter of Camp Tatiyee. Heaven on earth!!!," wrote Bruce Stultz on www.arizonalionscamp.com. Stultz attended camp in the late 1980s when he was a teenager.
"Campers fish in our own pond, swim in an indoor pool, make crafts and do science projects. There is a giant mud pit for tug of wars and games like that, a ball field for baseball and a DJ comes in and does dances for us," said Swanson.
For Spears, the sight of children reunited with friends and make new ones is the "heartwarming reward."
He has dipped a brush in paint and raked pine needles during work weekends in April and May, prior to the camp opening.
One year, a mother's car broke down in Payson when she was bringing her son and three of his friends to Tatiyee. Spears drove them to the camp and watched as they ran into the camp nurse's arms.
One camp counselor said that return campers started corresponding with him in March, urging him to return to the camp, Spears said.
The next opportunity for the public to visit Lions Camp Tatiyee will be December.
The three weekends before Christmas, volunteers will deck out the cabins of Tatiyee with lights and Santa will make an appearance.
The Payson Lions and Lioness' meet at noon, the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, at Tiny's Restaurant in Payson.
Raffle tickets may also be obtained by contacting Spears at (928) 474-1541.
"I will even deliver the tickets," Spears said.
Clarification: Raffle tickets for a mini-vacation for four people for two nights stay at Christopher Creek Village are being sold by our club, however, all proceeds have been ear-marked for sight and hearing projects, said raffle project chairman, Dave Prechtel. While the Payson Lions Club strongly supports Camp Tatiyee, support for the camp will come from other fund-raising projects.