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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Few Summer Camp Options

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I found a few summer camp options for kids and families that experience disabilities.  I should clarify—there are actually a lot of camp options if you have the money to spend (most of the ones I’ve found are between $750 – $1500 for a week!).  We don’t have money to splurge on camp but we love camping and some of my favorite memories as a child are going to summer camps.  I would love for my children to have the same experiences—without forgoing a mortgage payment to make it happen!

The camp options that I found are…FREE!  That’s right! FREE!  That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about them.  

Let me start with CAMP ATTITUDE:
Located in Foster, Oregon (I know, I had to Google Map it too—click here), this camp accommodates a whole family who has a member with a disability.  The person with a disability and their immediate family can stay the week for free—but wait! Want to make it a whole family affair?  Invite Grandma or aunts and uncles—each additional member of the family is just $100 for the week. 

Camp Attitude is a fully wheelchair accessible camp ground. It is located on 41 acres of forested land. This beautiful property borders the South Santiam River, and can accommodate up to 250 individuals for special day events, as well as 120 campers per night, in their authentic log cabins. They have 6 log cabins that sleep 20 campers each. They have 10 RV spots with full hookups. People can enjoy fishing, hiking, a local lake 4 miles from camp and other outdoor activities. They have over two miles of paved trails, and a very large covered activity center with a full kitchen.
This summer, Camp Attitude is offering 8 one week sessions for families to participate in.  At this time, all of the sessions are full.  However, still apply because they will put you on a wait list.  Even if you don’t get the opportunity to attend this summer, your name moves to the top of the reservation list for next summer.  

Check out further details on their website:
The second opportunity is for those of you who want to have the full summer camp experience for your child who experiences a disability.  I’m really excited and really terrified about this one (yep, Cainan’s going this summer! EEK!).

Camp Korey serves children with serious and life-altering medical conditions at no cost.  Located on the Carnation Ranch in Carnation, Washington (yep, had to Google that one, too—click here) this amazing camp offers one week long camps specifically designed for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.  Campers can safely enjoy traditional camp activities, with the addition of full medical support, adaptive methods, and the practice of “challenge by choice.” Camp Korey campers can swim, boat, fish, enjoy arts and crafts, try horseback riding, climb an indoor climbing wall or a new adaptive ropes course, and so much more.  

A child in a wheelchair on a tree bridge gets ready to zip line!!
Campers take part in fun camp-wide evening activities, including campfires complete with marshmallows and songs, a dance party, stage night, movies, and more.  Camp Korey is all about FUN, and time spent there is filled with laughter, making friends, and discovering new talents.  Children whose lives have been a series of medical procedures and hospital stays are transformed into “just kids.”  Campers spend time with caring counselors, and with other kids coping with the same illnesses or conditions.  They quickly realize that at camp they are not alone, and learn to feel special rather than different.
Camp Korey believes:
  • Children First – Children are children first; their abilities and medical conditions do not define them.  All of the activities at camp, from meal time and boating, to ropes courses and cabin chats, are designed to be child-centered.
  • Therapeutic Play – Everything at camp incorporates intentional programming and is based on the principles of therapeutic recreation.  Camp activities build confidence, independence and optimism.
  • Challenge By Choice – Each individual chooses to what extent they participate in each activity depending on their appropriate level of challenge.  Through challenge by choice, children have the opportunity to try new things in an environment that is positive and exciting.
  • Barrier Free – Camp and camp activities are universally accessible making it possible for children to participate in any activity they choose.  In addition, children of all backgrounds, circumstances and with a wide variety of medical conditions are welcome, always free of charge.
I don’t know about you, but when I read the above description, I started crying and called them immediately.  

The camp caters to children ages 7-16.  They have an extensive application that includes your child’s medical history and this is reviewed by the staff doctor and nurses before your child is accepted into the camp.  They do this to make sure they have the appropriate accommodations in place.  The counselor to camper ratio is 1:2 unless your child needs 1:1.  

Camp Korey is offering seven one week camps this summer that are disability specific.  But don’t be daunted if you don’t see your child’s disability included—they are willing to accommodate all different disabilities and will work with you to find the best week for your child to attend depending on their needs.

One more thing—take a deep breath—you can’t stay with your child… 

This is a traditional summer camp where kids go to be independent campers.  You drop your child off on Monday and pick them up on Friday.  You can’t volunteer to be a counselor the week your child attends (I already asked that question) and you can’t pay to stay on the camp grounds during that week (asked that, too).  They are wonderful in reassuring you about any concerns you might have and making any accommodations your child might need.  Since we are traveling out of state to attend this camp, I will be staying the week nearby in Seattle (it’s about 45 minutes away).   

The thought of having my baby away overnight at a camp is terrifying and I wonder how my mom let me do it every summer—add the fact that this is my fragile, needy child that I’ve spent 8 years protecting from unnecessary risk and this REALLY goes against the grain for me. But this is a normal part of growing up and he desperately wants to go.  So, I’m making it happen and I’m grateful that a place like this, not only exists, but is affordable (FREE!!).

One last word about Camp Korey—they are sponsored by many Northwest and National businesses, one of them being the Paul Newman Foundation.  Just in the last few months, the camp was officially designated one of the Paul Newman Foundation’s “Serious Fun Camps”, which lends it even more credibility and support.  

Check out their website for information and to apply online for the camp.  Call them and speak with the camper recruiter, personally.  They are passionate about what they do and your child who may experience a significant disability could have one of the most “normal” kid experiences you could hope for.

I hope these two camp ideas were inspiring and helpful.  We’ve applied to both and once Cainan gets back from Camp Korey, I can’ wait to tell everyone about it.  

Have a great summer!!