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Viewers step up to help Wilderness on Wheels after COVID-19 leads to drop in donations

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Posted at 10:41 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 00:41:33-05

GRANT, Colo. – The year 2020 was tough on a beloved Colorado campground that has been making the outdoors accessible for decades. People come from all over to camp at Wilderness on Wheels and use the handicap accessible boardwalk that reaches heights of more than 9,000 feet, but, this year, the visitors didn’t show up.

“We had maybe 50% of the visitors we do in a typical year, so we had about a 1,000 people, normally about 2,000 people come up to Wilderness on Wheels,” said Alison Kessler, the Foundation President for Wilderness on Wheels.

There was a dramatic drop in donations and the COVID-19 pandemic left Wilderness on Wheels unable to host its annual music festival fundraiser. Then longtime volunteer managers Barb and Bill Cramer announced it would be their final season at the grounds, it was time for them to retire.

Barb Cramer said she cried with her family because the future seemed so uncertain, and she feared Wilderness on Wheels could be forced to close.

“I know if they hadn’t been able to get new managers they might have had to shut down, and that would’ve been horrible, I’m not sure if we might have had to turn around and come back,” Cramer said.

Denver7 interviewed Cramer, her husband and their loyal volunteer, Beckie Harrison, before they packed up for one last time. A Denver7 Gives account was established to help Wilderness on Wheels make up for the lost donations and grants that didn’t come through this year.

Viewers ended up raising more than $3,000 for Wilderness on Wheels, and Kessler was presented with a check right before the end of the year. She was in disbelief when she saw the check and learned how some viewers emailed Denver7 with their own stories about their life changing experiences at the campground.

“We are so, so grateful and humbled by the community’s response, and that is the only way we’re able to exist is because of amazing volunteers and donors,” Kessler said.

Denver7 reached out Cramer on Zoom as she settled into their new home in Arizona. She believes the donation will help in a substantial way, and she’s thankful to everyone who contributed.

“Boy you guys all really came through, this makes me, gives me the goosebumps,” said Cramer.

Cramer pointed out how the donation brings this story full circle. Wilderness on Wheels donated a camping trip to a Kristen Bering in 2019. Bering was a Denver7 viewer who tragically lost her home in a fire and was battling kidney disease. Wilderness on Wheels made it possible for her to take her son camping and fulfill one of her dreams. Bering passed away less than a year later.

“We gave to her from our heart and now look at the turnaround, what goes around comes around, so now you’re giving back to us,” Cramer said.

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Denver7 | Gives

9:08 AM, Apr 04, 2019

Denver7 features the stories of people who need help and now you can help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.