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My Summer with Special Needs Children at Easter Seals Camp

Photo: The Magic of Summer Camp at Easter Seals Camp in British Columbia. Credit © J.Abram Photo/Easter Seals BC Yukon.
Forty some years later and in a different state/province, but the needs of the children — and parents — remain identical.


Author counsels and instructs a camper with MS at an Easter Seals camp in 1979.

Working with children with
physical disabilities in Pennsylvania

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For parents of a child with a disability, caregiving can be 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s emotionally and physically demanding, with many different pieces that go into planning and maintaining care.

Now imagine a child who couldn’t go to summer camp because of the challenges of caregiving. At Easter Seals Camps, that’s not the case.

“The quality of care, the compassion and the kindness of the staff that they have at Easter Seals camps is absolutely incredible,” says Nansey, mother of Tina who has Cerebral Palsy and has been attending camps for more than ten years. “They select and hire the most capable, dedicated, and enthusiastic bubbly personalities.”

Easter Seals camps have a three-to-one camper-to-staff ratio, a 24-hour medical team on-site, and camp counsellors trained specifically to work with persons with physical and cognitive disabilities between the ages of six to 49. Disabilities vary from autism, development delays, anxiety disorders, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, and ADHD, among others.

“Over my years I’ve seen staff arrive wondering how they can impact the lives of each camper and leave changed forever from the experience,” says James Gagnon, Director of Camp Programs and Facilities at Easter Seals. “There’s something bigger than all of us at camp. There’s a magic in the air.”

“As soon as you come through the gate to the property you feel welcome and you can just feel the energy throughout the camp. The first time we arrived we were excited and nervous at the same time, but you leave knowing that everyone is going to have a wonderful time,” says Nansey.

That’s when the magic happens. A combination of training, experience, love, fun, friendship, and independence turns one week of camp into the best time of campers’ lives.

“Campers and families understandably arrive at camp with some anxiety and trepidation. No one can predict what is involved or how things will turn out in any new situation. Now add to that a disability and a camper who may have never been away from their primary caretaker, and that uncertainty is intensified,” explains Gagnon.

Easter Seals camps are fully inclusive and accessible, so any child or adult with a disability can attend and participate in any activity.

My Summer with Special Needs Children at Easter Seals Camp (May 20,2014)

Jim Luce
Jim Lucehttps://stewardshipreport.org/
Raising, Supporting & Educating Young Global Leaders through Orphans International Worldwide (www.orphansinternational.org), the J. Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org), and The Stewardship Report (www.stewardshipreport.org). Jim is also founder and president of the New York Global Leaders Lions Club.

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