LAKE LUZERNE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In a given year, between 1,500 and 2,000 kids pay a visit to a ranch in the woods with a view of the still waters of Lake Vanare. Soon, future generations of kids to make that trip will make use of state-of-the-art accommodations in line with the ranch’s mission – to serve as the best retreat possible for children living with life-threatening illnesses.
On Friday, Double H Ranch broke ground on the new Circle H Residential Lodge, set to replace a cabin that has served kids throughout the ranch’s 30-year history. The lodge will replace a structure that has stood there since that history began – and which lived to the point where renovation was no longer enough.
“This building that we’re replacing had 7-foot-tall ceilings,” said Double H Ranch Facilities Committee Chair Dave Michaels. “Probably 50% of the building wasn’t habitable. There were terrible airflow and ventilation issues, and it wouldn’t even pass code – and yet we expected a percent of our population to stay in the building.”
Now, where that building once stood, there’s only dirt, grass, and a tree-filtered view of the nearby lake. That won’t be the case for long, though. The $4 million construction project to come will produce a new lodge with 22 double-bed rooms, able to house a total of 44 kids at a time – out of the 126 campers Double H Ranch welcomes at a time. The lodge will feature a kitchen and common lounge area on each floor, and consume energy more efficiently than the ranch’s older buildings.
The campers who use those cabins come from all around New York, with many making the trip from New York City. Others come from Massachusetts and elsewhere across the northeast. Since 1993, Double H Ranch has served as a place of respite for children living with cancer, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, collagen vascular disease, and numerous immune, neuromuscular and mitochondrial disorders. The ranch gives them a place to visit, play, and find joy that may be hard-found elsewhere.
“In the fall, we also have sessions where the families come and stay with their children,” explained Double H Board Chair Charlie Crew. “It’s quite educational, because some of the parents are struggling with the same kinds of issues that their children face. It’s a way for the parents to interact and share experiences.”
The site of the future Circle H Lodge was the only one to see shovels hit dirt on Friday, but it represents just one of four projects that make up the second phase of a years-long capital campaign. Other elements include a “Camp-a-Theater” space for gatherings and performances; expansions to the ranch’s outdoor pavilion; and an adaptive playground.
While work begins on the lodge, the playground is about 90% done, according to Facilities Director Kurt Braymer. Built from KOMPAN-brand play equipment, the playground is intended as a place for all kids who come to Double H, regardless of how their conditions may change what they can or cannot physically do. The $300,000 project is expected to continue through the fall, and open for play in spring 2024.
Phase 1 of Double H’s capital project included three projects: A 30,000-square-foot lodging facility, pavilion improvements, and updated cabins. That work was all completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the tune of about $3 million. Phase 2’s price tag sits at $5.5 million, of which most – but not all – has been raised. Projects like these are entirely funded by donations from the ranch’s sponsors and community. If a phase 3 comes to be, it will be the same push all over again – all for the good of the kids.