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Meet Alison Wilcox 

An inclusion ambassador on the adventure of a lifetime.

{From the 2024 Spring magazine}

Written By Megin Potter |  Photos PROVIDED

Growing up with eight siblings in rural Canada was a joyful experience, said Alison Wilcox, but a challenging one. With two working parents and three children in the family with special needs, everyone was expected to pitch in to help. 

“It was fun and there was a lot of energy in the house. It taught us how important it is for everyone be included in activities,” she said. 

When Alison first saw videos of families enjoying Double H Ranch, a Serious Fun Camp in the Adirondacks that provides specialized programs and support for seriously ill children free of charge, she was moved to tears. Double H Ranch’s summer camps and community events; adaptive winter sports; swimming, boating, and fishing; archery, horseback riding, and high-ropes adventures; crafts, talent shows, family weekends and more, are created so every child can participate. 

“I just imagined the impact being able to do these activities would’ve had on my family and what that could’ve been like for all of us. Everyone was smiling and I saw the love, inclusion, kindness, and joy. I thought, ‘Wow! I can’t believe this place exists!’”

Since August 2023, Alison has been Chief Executive Officer of Double H Ranch, and said the organization provides everything those videos promised.  In May, when she visited for her interview, Alison was struck by how beautiful the Adirondacks are, and now, nearly a year later, each morning she still stops to appreciate how gorgeous the property is. 

“I liked where I was living and was not expecting to move but there was just this really strong pull,” she said. “I had to follow my heart and pursue it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in an amazing organization in the best location.”

Making a Difference in This World

In Canada, Alison had joined Girl Guides and other youth programs geared toward social action and developing leadership skills. She went on to earn a Master’s of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership and moved to Buffalo more than 20 years ago. She and husband, David, have now been married for 21 years, their son, Ben, is 21, and Alison is stepmother to David’s daughters, Sarah, and Hannah. They also have two sons-in-law, Liam and Jim, and a two-year-old granddaughter named Gemma. 

“I’ve been a working mother and had challenges juggling work and caretaking so I understand the burnout women can feel,” said Alison, which is one of the reasons why she looks for opportunities to create equitable workplaces for women. Alison has more than 20 years in nonprofit experience and, for 11 years, held leadership positions at the Girl Scouts of Western New York. 

“The entire idea of inclusion and ensuring every child grows up knowing they have a voice and can take the lead has a profound impact on an organization and the community. Ensuring diverse representation is critical to me. The more diverse a team and its leadership is, the better decisions we make and the more ethical a world we live in.”

The Next Chapter of a Compelling Story

Since her arrival, Alison has had a chance to sample Saratoga’s spring waters and found Saratoga to be an amazing city, she said.

“Saratoga is vibrant and beautiful and I’m just blown away by the support of the Saratoga community and others across the state.”

Feeling honored to have been selected for her current role, which had been held by Max Yurenda for 30 years (since Double H Ranch was founded by actor Paul Newman and philanthropist Charles Wood in 1993) Alison’s priorities include engaging new and existing donors, while also ensuring all potential campers and families know about the opportunities here, apply, and attend. “We have a compelling story,” she said.

Building on their reputation of excellence, Alison’s team is focusing on replenishing enrollment (which dropped during the pandemic) and safeguarding organizational sustainability. Already, enrollment increased 8% last year, she said, and their goal is to grow that to 15% this year. Since fall, programs and family weekend events have been filled to capacity. The $5.5 million Double H Ranch Capital Campaign is well underway, with a new adaptive playground opening this spring, construction on the staff residence lodge finishing this summer, and by Fall 2024, the outdoor amphitheater will break ground. 

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