ocated just 2.5 miles up Emigration Canyon on 25 acres, is a very special place where both children and adults of all abilities can chase their dreams. They participate in activities such as horseback riding, fishing, and even ropes courses. This place is called Camp Kostopulos.
Dan Kostopulos and his wife, Helen, started Camp Kostopulos in 1967 as a way to give back to those with disabilities. Today, Camp Kostopulos is known as the Kostopulos Dream Foundation to more adequately reflect their mission and purpose. Mircea Divricean has taken over the reins of the organization that brings smiles to so many faces.
When did you start getting involved with the Kostopulos Dream Foundation?
“I started working at Camp Kostopulos as a camp counselor in 1998 while I was in college. I worked here every summer while I was in college. When I graduated I was a banker for a year and then 2001 I returned to Camp Kostopulos. After three years, I became the COO, the CFO, and then COO/CFO, and then for the last three years I have been President/CEO of the camp.”
What type of activities does Camp Kostopulos offer?
“The Kostopulos Dream Foundation offers recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. We offer three types of summer camps: Residential, Day, and Trip. Residential and Day Campers go fishing, ride horses, work on arts and crafts projects, and challenge themselves on the ropes course all while making new friends and renewing old friendships. Residential campers spend four nights on our campus, while Day Campers spend the night at their own homes, and return to Camp Kostopulos each morning. Trip Campers spend five days on the road and participate in the Travel Trip Adventures program. Campers go to places like Yellowstone, Moab, Bear Lake, or Jackson Hole.
We are open year-round and our community based programs run from September-April. We offer activities such as: cooking classes, bowling, going to Utah Jazz Games and community dances, and much more. We also have an equestrian program that runs year-round where campers experience equine therapy.”
What is unique about the Kostopulos Dream Foundation?
“We treat everybody individually and we try to find ways to address their own particular needs. We try to help them out as much as we possibly can.”
What keeps you so motivated and positive?
“It’s the little things. A smile on a camper’s face. An email from a parent that expresses gratitude for what we did for their child. For example, the other day, after a very long day, I went down to the camping grounds and a team captain approached me to say how much he loves our camp. It was his first time here, and he said it was the best thing in the world. He also said the staff were very helpful and polite and had the highest praise for them. These are the moments that make me so happy.”
What is your favorite part of being the CEO at Camp Kostopulos?
“Seeing campers interacting with each other. Our campers can relate to each other and they feel like they are not alone. They look at their fellow campers and recognize they are experiencing the same issues and challenges. The create this special bond.”
Is there one child’s story that really tugs at your heart strings?
“There are so many. But Julian has a really amazing story that demonstrates how powerful the human spirit is. Julian came to Camp Kostopulos the first time when he was eight years old and you could not tell he had a disability. He was riding horses and going up on the ropes, one of the happiest kids in the world. Doctors later discovered that Julian had a tumor in his heel and they had to amputate his leg. But he returned more resilient than ever with two different prosthetic legs, one for walking and one for high impact activities. He was able to do all of these activities again, but this time with his new legs. It was so phenomenal to see him back and not in pain.”
What is your favorite quote?
“Never give up on something you truly believe in. Follow your heart and it will lead you to your destiny.”
What motto do you live by?
“Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest. It’s about who came and never left your side.”
What unique fact would readers be surprised to know about you?
“I graduated from Babes-Bolyai University in Romania. I was the first Non-Profit Executive in the country to graduate from the Goldman Sachs Small Business Leadership Program.”