The Swartzlander family is raising money to build a new nature trail, plaque, reflection bench, bridge and covered outdoor classroom at Camp Cristina to preserve the memory of their dad, Matt Swartzlander.

A local family is working with a Riverview camp to remember a loved one. Jason, Katie, David and Jake Swartzlander started fundraising for their Mr. Matt Project early this August in order to raise funds to build a new nature trail, plaque, reflection bench, bridge and covered outdoor classroom at Camp Cristina to preserve the memory of their dad, Matt Swartzlander, who passed away in April due to stage 4 Melanoma.

Matt had worked at the Y for more than 10 years, since 1996, working all over the camp as a counselor, camp director and lifeguard. His favorite thing to do was take kids out onto the nature trails and teach outdoor education, teaching the kids about the plants and animals around them.

The new nature trail, classroom and more will allow the kids to be fully immersed in nature and give a space to learn more about nature for kids who don’t have access to such a large and diverse area.

“It’s really important for the kids to understand that nature isn’t something to be afraid of or even careless about, it’s something to be appreciated and cared for,” said David.

Not only were the Y and Camp Cristina a huge part of their father’s life, but Jason, Katie, David and Jake all spent countless summers there as campers and even went on to be counselors and a lifeguard.

“As a staff member, I have made some of the best friends and met some of the most incredible people ever. I am so grateful for my four summers as a Y employee, I have certainly made memories that will last forever,” said Katie.

The community can join in on the Mr. Matt Project by donating to the GoFundMe, ‘The Mr. Matt Project,’ or directly to Camp Cristina, specifying that it is for the project. So far, $10,165 has been raised out of the $11,000 goal.

Members of the community can also volunteer at Camp Cristina to help with the construction, as the area is set to be built by hand so that the surrounding environment is preserved. The Mr. Matt Project is hoped to be finished and open to the public by this upcoming Spring.

To donate or learn more, go to www.gofundme.com/f/the-mr-matt-project or www.tampaymca.org/locations/ymca-camp-cristina.