Paul Burton Accepting The Wildflower Legacy Award in Honor of Ron Burton, Sr. and The Ron Burton Training Village
Ron Burton, Sr., (1936-2003) is best known as a star running back for the New England Patriots in the 1960s, but his living legacy is a love of disadvantaged children and a desire to help them find their path in life.
Ron’s mother passed at a young age and his father became too ill to care for him. He was raised by his grandmother, in a poor community. His upbringing, his big heart and desire to succeed, along with a strong work ethic, helped him overcome the most difficult life circumstances, to become a professional athlete, successful businessman and humanitarian.
As a child, Ron was ridiculed by peers due to his poverty and small stature. He loved sports, but consistently failed, until he met a coach who encouraged him to run seven miles a day to increase his mental and physical strength. The next day, he began running seven miles a day, five days a week, for 12 straight years. This discipline and training led him to become a high school All-American; Northwestern University football star; college All-American, and first draft choice for the New England Patriots.
After successful football and business careers, Burton turned toward building a program, and a place, to help children in need, and show them their potential and value. In 1985, he founded the Ron Burton Training Village (RBTV) on the principles of “love, peace, patience and humility,” with an emphasis on the development of the whole person, through two programs. The first is “The Seven Year Journey,” a year-round mentorship program for boys, age 11 to 18 years old. The journey is highlighted each summer by a five-week, intense overnight session focusing on academic excellence, physical adeptness, life skills, leadership, a love for God, and for others. The second is “The Weekend Retreat,” that brings inner-city groups to use the 305-acre RBTV facility and learn goals and philosophies of leading a positive and productive life.
Since its inception, more than 4,000 young people have attended RBTV. Most are from troubled environments, where they face challenges that negatively impact their decision-making skills and ability to achieve. Seventy-one percent come from low-income homes. All attend at no charge, through the generosity of RBTV donors and supporters. The program maintains a balanced roster of minority and non-minority participants, as diversity is an important part of the RBTV experience.
The Burton family, RBTV staff and volunteers mentor participants for seven years, providing assistance with private school accession, internships, career opportunities, college admission and scholarships. In fact, more than 2.3 million dollars have been awarded in academic scholarships to RBTV participants who are currently attending college. One hundred percent of RBTV participants graduate from high school, and 94 percent go on to attend college. For over 30 years, Burton’s legacy has positively changed the lives of youth, giving them hope and skills to succeed.
Ron Burton, Sr., passed in 2003, after a valiant battle with cancer. He left behind his wife Jo Ann, his four sons, Steve, Ron, Jr., Paul and Phil, his daughter, Elizabeth Scott, their spouses and many grandchildren. All have assumed roles to continue Ron, Sr.’s, legacy.
Paul Burton is accepting the Wildflower Legacy Award on behalf of his late father and family. Paul, Vice-President of the Ron Burton Training Village, and a popular reporter for WBZ-TV News, is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master’s in Journalism. He earned a second Master’s, as well as, a Doctorate in Ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He played football for Northwestern University achieving All-Big Ten honors, earning him a try-out with the Seattle Seahawks. Paul is married to Shaela Burton and they are expecting their first child this December.
Bob Strauss, Director of Camp Wigwam, Accepting The Wildflower Impact Award
Bob Strauss has been the owner and director of Camp Wigwam, a summer camp for boys in Waterford, Maine, since 1976. Bob's parents, Ned and Helen Strauss, purchased Camp Wigwam in the fall of 1964 from its founders Abraham "Mandy" Mandelstam, and Arnold "Pop" Lehman. The 2015 camp season will mark Wigwam's 105th season and the 50th anniversary year of Strauss family ownership of this storied summer camp.
Bob received a BA from Lake Forest College in 1974 and was working toward a master’s degree in abnormal psychology when his father, Ned Strauss, incurred a back injury. Bob joined his father on the Wigwam recruiting trail in the fall of 1975 and has been "throwing quarters into toll baskets on the Garden State Parkway” ever since. Bob has been Wigwam's full-time recruiter since that year, meeting with prospective families and staff members throughout the winter months and, with the help of his wife Jane, directing Wigwam's annual summer camp extravaganza during June, July and August.
Camp Wigwam is a very special place because of Bobby Strauss. He has succeeded in creating a camp culture that is warm, welcoming and inclusive to all who experience the wonders of Camp Wigwam. Many of his campers will tell you that they love and respect Bob . . . that his magnetic personality, energy, his kind heart and his way of making each day a spectacular day is precisely what makes the Wigwam experience so special.
In was not surprising, then, that some campers returned home from their first year at Wigwam with dreams of one day opening their own camp, which is to say they wanted to grow up to be Bob Strauss. And who could blame them? In Bob they saw a parent, a big brother, a role model. In fact, Bob has left such an indelible mark on the lives of his campers that they continue to visit him on the shores of Bear Lake throughout life as a touchstone of the magic of Camp Wigwam. Many would say that Wigwam had a profound impact on who they are today and for their success in life.
In addition to a full summer of camp, Wigwam also hosts two post-season programs. For over 35 years, a special needs population from the North Shore Special Recreation Association of Chicago (NSSRA) has visited Wigwam for a 10-day program of camp fun and activity. NSSRA was chartered as a children’s program but, because so many of the NSSRA participants return each year, it has evolved into a young adult fantasy camp.
Camp Wigwam also hosts Camp to Belong, founded by Lynn Price of Denver, CO. Camp to Belong is a unique program for state of Maine foster children and children in care. In an effort to strengthen sibling bonds among foster children (90% of whom are separated from their siblings when placed in the foster system) Camp to Belong brings brothers and sisters together in August for a week of carefree summer camp fun.
Bob and his wife Jane live at Camp Wigwam on the beautiful shores of Bear Pond. They have three children, all of whom were raised at Camp Wigwam. Jesse is an attorney living in New York City, Hannah is a Dietician and will soon begin the Physicians’ Assistant Program at Northeastern University in Boston and Rachel works in Media Planning at Neo at Ogilvy in New York City.
Wildflower helps children who have lost a parent. We provide bereaved families with the gift of camp, enrichment opportunities and ongoing support services. We are committed to renewing the promise of summer, offering a restorative experience for both the children and surviving spouse as they recover from their loss.