THE CHARITY LIST
Paul Guenther, a former Wall Street securities analyst, is probably best known as the chairman of the New York Philharmonic. It’s a role that has allowed him to enrich lives by bringing new and traditional classical music from around the world to New York City.
His latest endeavor has been making it possible for thousands of special-needs children with from across the country to spend time learning about nature and bonding with other kids at camp in the Catskills.
Guenther, who owns a farm in upstate New York, has been a major supporter of the nearby Claryville, N.Y.-based Frost Valley YMCA Camp, which is one of the nation’s first summer camps. Two of his now 30-something children spent several meaningful summers there, and most recently, he contributed funds for a new health center on the camp site.
Frost Valley, which is a few hours drive from New York City, provides year-round programming for thousands of children, mixing mainstream kids with those who have developmental disabilities and conditions such as kidney disease.
“It’s really a wonderfully diverse program,” Guenther said, “a one-stop shop” that enhances children’s lives with its varied classes, nature programs and support for disadvantaged children.
Frost Valley, established in 1901, boasts a teen adventure camp, a farm summer camp and an after school program for area children, among other offerings.
At summer camp, “a child with a physical disability is in a cabin with a child without,” Guenther explained, “and that gives both sides a tremendous appreciation for each other’s situations.”
Years ago, Guenther was moved by the joy that he saw on campers’ faces and joined Frost Valley’s board. He then helped to create a fully equipped health care center on site, making a significant financial contribution to the project. The Guenther Family Wellness Center opened this fall. The center allows Frost Valley to increase the care it can give to campers with special needs, including several dozen children with chronic kidney disease.
In addition to his work with Frost Valley, Guenther has also been chairman of Fordham University and is on the board at Lenox Hill Hospital.
“It’s an opportunity to do different things,” Guenther said about his work in the community, “and in some small way to help other people.”
Guenther was born and grew up in Northern Manhattan and moved to the New Jersey suburbs to raise his three children. After his kids grew up, he and his wife decided to move back to Manhattan in the mid-1990s. They set their sights only on the West Side.
“The West Side is one of the most vibrant places in the world,” Guenther said. “It has a tremendous sense of community, all nationalities and all income groups.”
“We love to travel and we love our home in the country,” he said, “but we really love our home in Manhattan.”
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