When searching for land upon which to build a camp, Tom Tucker, the founder and current Chairman of the Board, scoured the Adirondacks but never found the spot he was looking for his vision. In 1997, Tom got a call from a realtor in Hamilton, NY, home of Colgate University, Tom’s alma mater. The Keefe Farm in Poolville, five miles south of Hamilton, was about to come on the market. The Keefe brothers felt strongly that they wanted to sell the 129-acre piece of property to someone who would avoid dividing up the property and would use it for a positive purpose. Tom drove to it, surveyed the property, and immediately decided that the rolling hills, cornfields, woodlands, wetlands and lake would make an ideal location for a camp. (Members of the Keefe family remain close to the program serving in an advisory capacity and visiting often.)
Tom formed a board of directors, made up of his colleagues from his Lehman Brother’s career and experts in camping and youth development. The nine members of the founding board held their first meeting at the farmhouse just outside the newly purchased camp property. There were several important decisions made in those early meetings: First, that the program would serve children for ten years, from age 8 through 18. The long-term commitment would become a hallmark and key to success for the program. Second, they agreed that the program would focus on cultivating character. They understood that helping children learn to work as a team, try new things, and make good decisions would translate into success in school, careers, and life. These early tenets remain the core vision of the program to this day.
Upon purchasing the land, Tom began meeting with the local community in Madison and Chenango counties, to explain his vision and gain approval for the program. There was much skepticism about bringing children from an urban environment into the quiet hamlet of Poolville, NY, which had a population of about one hundred people. There were concerns, fears and questions; but there was also support, and this support eventually won out. Tom and the program’s first Executive Director, Jim Flint, a camp expert from Wisconsin, convinced the community to take a chance on the camp. Tom and Jim also agreed that 10% of the children served by Fiver would come from the communities surrounding Poolville.
The next challenge would be naming the program. Several names were discussed, among them “Tom’s Farm,” but the group soon settled on Fiver. Fiver is a rabbit character in the novel, Watership Down by Richard Adams. The book was a favorite of Tom’s and the rabbit, Fiver, had always stood out as the visionary. Fiver demonstrated courage in leading his family to a safe new home, away from the dangers that awaited them if they failed to move. As such, the Fiver Children’s Foundation was formed.