It’s never too late to say Thank You again. Just ask Rita Fuchs.
At 91, she is still thanking the Rotary Club of Cincinnati for the life-changing support she received as a child at Condon School for students with disabilities and the Rotary’s Camp Allyn summer camp for people with disabilities.
Mrs. Fuchs, of Mt. Airy, was a luncheon guest at the Jan. 23 Rotary Club of Cincinnati meeting, where she helped kick off the 100th anniversary of the year The Rotary Club helped start Cincinnati’s first school for children with physical disabilities.
In 1920, The Rotary Club of Cincinnati spearheaded the region’s first school classes for children with physical disabilities, held at Cincinnati’s General Hospital. Previously, many children with significant disabilities were simply not educated because typical schools could not handle their needs.
Rotary records from the time show the then-10-year-old Rotary Club of Cincinnati hired a nurse to conduct a survey of young patients’ needs and helped bring in a teacher and fund classes that were held in previously vacant wards at General Hospital. The Rotary Club bought a school bus to transport children with disabilities who lived at home. The Rotary also purchased books and lobbied the Cincinnati Board of Education to open a full school serving children with high physical needs.
Cincinnati Public Schools opened the Randall J. Condon School for Crippled Children in Avondale in 1928, with The Rotary Club of Cincinnati offering continuing support to the students through outings, holiday celebrations and donations.
Rita Fuchs was a student at Condon School from 1941 to 1945.
“I started in the fifth’ grade,” she said. “I had been in a body cast the year before and was on crutches.” She recalled. “The regular school couldn’t take me. I wouldn’t have had an education if it wasn’t for Condon School,” Mrs. Fuchs said.
She said many of her classmates had cerebral palsy. Mrs. Fuchs was dealing with the aftermath of massive blood poisoning that resulted in nerve damage and required multiple surgeries.
“We all had a lot to deal with but you’d never find a happier bunch of kids,” she said.
Rotary created a lot of those smiles.
“Rotary took us to the Cincinnati Reds ball games several times a year. Every Christmas they had a big party. They’d come out before and ask what we wanted for Christmas. The first Christmas I got a little box camera. You’d think I had a million dollars,” Mrs. Fuchs said.
“The next year they gave me a watch.”
Her summers included a week or more at the Rotary’s Camp Allyn – a summer camp that the Rotary Club of Cincinnati built in Batavia to serve people with polio and other disabilities.
When Mrs. Fuchs graduated from Condon School she studied to be a comptometer operator and worked in the payroll department of the Fair Department Store in downtown Cincinnati. She said Rotary members helped arrange her comptometer classes and helped place her in the job.
“The Rotary set me on my path for life,” Mrs. Fuchs said.
It’s something the Rotary Club of Cincinnati has been quietly doing for generations, said Rotary Club of Cincinnati president Dave Carlin of Montgomery. The Christmas parties at Condon School, now Roselawn Condon School in Roselawn, continue as a Rotary tradition today. Camp Allyn in Batavia continues to serve children and adults with disabilities with year-round programs that build independence and confidence.
Carlin said the Rotary club has a strong focus on serving children with disabilities. But it is a special treat to hear from long-ago children who still remember how rotary touched their lives.
Mrs. Fuchs said she was browsing through Facebook in January and saw a posting about the 2019 Rotary Christmas party at Roselawn Condon School.
“I’m not very good with cell phones, but I had to send a comment,” she said.
Carlin said her simple message is a warm reminder of the lasting impact Rotary’s programs can have.
“The Rotary Club did so many nice things for us children . . . I’m 91 years old. I’ll never forget them. God Bless.”