Grab the Torch: Leadership, Ethics and Philanthropy
Dave Aldrich is shaping the next generation of altruists with Grab The Torch, a nonprofit he founded in 2007; its hallmark program — Leadership, Ethics and Philanthropy Summer Camp Institute — equips teens with the skills necessary to become the next generation of leaders, volunteers, non-profit executives and well-rounded young adults.
He has been a devoted volunteer, board member and committee chair for many non-profits for over 30 years, but his “massive epiphany” was his introduction to Paul Newman’s Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT. The urge to educate children about their role as stewards of the future and their responsibility to make a difference came on like a tsunami. It was at Newman’s Camp that he decided there should be a program to prepare the next generation to grab the torch rather than just pass the torch. He felt that combining the magic of summer camp with a full immersion into the greater good was the perfect balance. Society needs to provide a long-term strategic look at philanthropy rather than sending our next generation out the door to change the world without providing them a clear path to be successful. “I’m also indebted to Sy Fliegel and CEI-PEA for sharing his lifelong commitment to students and schools of NYC, especially Sana Nasser, principal of Truman High School and her outstanding students. They, along with students from independent and charter schools from across the country have all been part of the success of our program.” Dave is quick to say, “The program has never been, isn’t now or ever will be about me. It’s all about the students.”
He created a three-part service-learning program for The Pomfret School and a leadership and philanthropy program for Suffield Academy. Both schools are located in CT. He then came up with the idea to combine the magic of a summer camp with a curriculum to build skills for leadership, ethics and philanthropy. He spent the first 9 months marketing and pitching the idea. He always thought the school lecture series and leadership trainings would be the perfect marketing mechanism for the summer camp program. He received great reviews and endless pledged support, then “The skunk came to the financial garden party” says Dave. The economy took a downturn, all the pledges dried up and all the schools that had committed to have Grab The Torch as part of their curriculum went into a holding pattern. Stuck in a conundrum, he moved camp ahead of the lectures as the nonprofit’s main attraction to potential partners. “I took our camp from the back burner, reorganized and turned camp into the focal point,” he says. And it worked. “Convincing leaders to speak at camp turned out to be the easiest part. Finding students and funding continues to be the challenge,” says Dave. “I’m proud to have the likes of The CommonFund, Charity Navigator, City Year, Google, Burton Snowboard and the Chill Foundation. VT Community Foundation, Ethel Walker and Fountain Valley School are partners.
Currently, the six-day, five-night program is offered four times a year in Vermont, Connecticut and Colorado. The magic of camp is available regardless of socioeconomic background. “We take kids from all demographics,” says Dave, “and give them the knowledge and network to truly make a difference. Each student holds a piece of the puzzle for the global greater good. We help them unleash their potential and be a force to make the world a better place.” Students can apply on line for a scholarship at www.grabthetorch.org.#