Camp Tanager to expand with couple's $1.8 million gift

Jared and Carol Hills in front of Summer Lodge at Camp Tanager in June. (Photo courtesy Tanager Place)
Jared and Carol Hills in front of Summer Lodge at Camp Tanager in June. (Photo courtesy Tanager Place)

A $1.8 million legacy donation from Jared and Carol Hills will help Tanager Place expand its Camp Tanager, which offers summer and year-round programs for thousands of Corridor children each year.

The sum represents the largest single gift the Cedar Rapids-based children’s mental health treatment facility has received in its 140 years in operation, the not-for-profit organization said Tuesday.

The money will go toward designing and building a Jared and Carol Hills Grand Lodge, as a 300-seat hub for meals and programming at Camp Tanager, and a new 24-bed cabin that will allow at least 168 more children to attend the camp each summer.

This isn’t the Hills’s first major donation. In 2011, the couple donated $1 million to help researchers at the University of Iowa investigate causes of and possible treatments for polycystic kidney disease by establishing a Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Fund and Professorship in Nephrology.

Jared is president and owner of Cedar Rapids-based Divine Engineering, a custom-chain and flight conveyors manufacturer. Carol was a nurse in the Cedar Rapids Community Schools.

They head the Jared and Carol Hills Foundation.

“This is an amazing gift — a legacy for our organization, the children and families we serve and the broader community,” said Okpara Rice, CEO of Tanager Place, in its news release.

“It provides a clear path through the first phase of our camp expansion project and, most important, it ensures more children can access a positive and potentially life-changing camp experience.”


Located in Mount Vernon, Camp Tanager serves 1,000 children in summer programs and more than 2,000 in year-round offerings, many of which are free-of-charge or scholarship-based, the organization said.

Among the camp’s offerings are specialized medical camp programs, including longtime hemophilia and diabetes camps.

The Hills indicated in the release they decided to donate the $1.8 million after seeing campers happiness’ during a visit to Camp Tanager.

“We saw something that would benefit every child, and then we learned that some children had to be turned away because there simply weren’t enough resources to meet existing needs,” Jared said.

“Children need guidance and we realize some of their home lives are not ideal,” Carol said. “Even a week of camp can be very helpful. I think it is obvious, when you have former campers returning as counselors, that a bond was created and that Camp Tanager does good work.”

She said she first became involved with Camp Tanager when she worked there as a school nurse, when it was called Camp Good Health.

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