Camp Betty

Camp Betty is a historical memoir told by John Schwarzlose, who supported Betty Ford in the founding of The Betty Ford Center in 1982. As it’s first CEO, Schwarzlose shared in the groundbreaking to the worldwide credibility of The Betty Ford Center. Camp Betty is a profound reflection on a First Lady who truly made a difference.

Release date: September 15, 2022


Betty Ford Stepped Forward

Since scientific research began to study addictive diseases in the 1930s and 1940s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower. Those views shaped society’s response to drug abuse and addiction, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem. Today, thanks to research, our views, and responses to addiction have changed dramatically. But in the 1980s, it fell to Betty Ford and the Betty Ford Center to step forward as a chemical dependency recovery hospital and tell the world that addiction is treatable, that women and men from around the world could foster a journey of recovery.

Ground Breaks with the Help of Ambassador Leonard Firestone and Bob and Delores Hope

Ground was broken in October 1981 to build the first four buildings of the Betty Ford Center. Cofounders Betty Ford and Leonard Firestone were overwhelmed that this day had arrived. Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage had agreed to lease fourteen acres of land for the treatment center. A medical center started by Bob and Dolores Hope, who donated the original eighty acres of land, worked with President Dwight D. Eisenhower to lend his name to their efforts.

Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg Sparked Funding

It has been well documented that Betty Ford admitted herself in 1978 to Long Beach Naval Hospital for treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. When she returned to their home in Rancho Mirage, she was dedicated to taking one day at a time. The thought of opening a treatment center was the farthest thing from her mind. This changed after she participated in an intervention with her close neighbor and friend, Ambassador Leonard Firestone. When Betty and Leonard broached the subject of a treatment center on the Eisenhower campus, Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg, along with Dolores and Bob Hope, all mentioned the amazing positive changes in their friends. They enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

Robin Williams and Many Celebrities Thank Betty Ford

Following dinner, a few long-term alumni shared briefly about their experiences at the center and their recovery. Now it was time for Robin (Williams). He came out on stage and looked nervous but serene.

Good evening … I am Robin, a recovering alcoholic/addict. I had planned to do a short stand-up comedy routine this evening, and then something happened. Something was sitting at dinner with the most remarkable woman … Betty Ford (hesitation/silence). My son, Zak, and I will never forget this special evening. Betty, you are truly one of a kind … You have helped so many people. Many more than you have any idea of.

My hat is off to those of you who got clean and sober after one treatment experience. It took me several times. Of course, I wanted to do it my way … My first time, I went to treatment in Wine Country … wanted to leave my options open….

All his stories and jokes were related to addiction and recovery. After about thirty minutes, he thanked the crowd and congratulated them on their own recovery. He thanked Betty and again apologized for having to leave and catch a plane. With a standing ovation, he and his son were on their way.

Julio Iglasious at a Center event with Betty Ford and President Gerald Ford

“It is extremely hard for me to believe that our center has touched over 100,000 lives in a relatively short period of time. What a wonderful feeling for all of us to share. I thank God every day for our wonderful place of healing and for each and every one of you. Love, Betty Ford

John Schwarzlose

Author, Camp Betty

Retired CEO, The Betty Ford Center

All content above is excerpted from the book Camp Betty, to be released June 15, 2022

About John Schwarzlose

John Schwarzlose was hired by former first-lady, Mrs. Betty Ford, and Ambassador Leonard Firestone as the founding CEO of Betty Ford Center in 1982, where he served for 33 years. He led and developed one of the most high profile treatment and recovery programs for those suffering from the disease of substance use disorder. Schwarzlose implemented Mrs. Ford’s vision to build a family centered focus of care, a public health approach with a unique medical staff, and a dynamic research and training institute. He is credited with many international expansion efforts of recovery treatment and carrying the message that quality treatment of substance use disorder is effective in saving lives, building stronger communities, and holistically treating families.

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