With many local businesses pushed out of the area due to recessionary woes, the in Larchmont—tucked away on 10 acres off Rockland Avenue—has been quietly training future Olympians in its massive 50 yard pool (slightly shy of Olympic size) since 1945, and shows no signs of retiring.
Today, founder Ruth Collins celebrated a significant milestone—her 100th birthday—on her front lawn with several hundred of her closest friends and attendees of the day camp she started nearly 70 years ago.
“I always said I grew up like Lincoln,” joked Ruth’s son, John Jr., referring to his childhood home, located on the premises of the camp, a practical necessity that made running the business an easier task. Before Badger, though, was Rockland Ridge, a short-lived country club that occupied the property during the Great Depression, said John Jr., but shuttered prematurely, likely due to financial uncertainty during the era.
Although Badger wasn’t Ruth and her husband Jack’s first venture—they opened up a camp at Iona in New Rochelle in the 1930’s—eventually, the enterprising couple were able to acquire the property at 119 Rockland Ave., and officially opened for business in 1945.
John Jr., a co-owner of Badger, runs the camp and is a swim coach, while his son John III acts as a camp director. For her part, Ruth oversees the operations of the camp, which runs a swim school from March 5-June 15 as well as an 8-week day camp for ages 3-12 during the summer that attracts approximately 400 kids from Westchester and Rockland Counties as well as NYC.
“She gives daily tours—she wants to make sure the kids are having fun,” said Aquatic Director Andrew Montgomery, continuing, “She loves the fact that the kids love the camp.”
Clearly swimming plays an important part at Badger, with John Jr. having couched several Olympic champions. But it’s not the only activity the day camp offers. Kids can also participate in art, yoga, drama, Taekwondo, Zumba, basketball and tennis classes.
And, despite a downturn in business starting in 2008 that coincided with the uncertainty in the economy, John Jr. said that the Camp has weathered the storm: “We’ve been pretty steady for the past couple of years.”
As he thanked the crowd for their support, John Jr. summed up his mother’s contribution: “She’s been the heart and soul of Badger for many years.”
Speaking softly, Ruth said, “I’ve really been very, very happy…my son and family are with me.”
And, for that, anyone would be grateful.
For more information on Badger Swim Club, please visit the website here.