How Summer Camp Can Be FUEL for the Mind and Body

Sydnee with a camp attendee sitting outside on a bench. Both are wearing "camp FUEL shirts"As you read this, Easterseals locations around the country are offering summer camp experiences for children and adults with disabilities. At Easterseals Crossroads in Indiana, Camp FUEL (Fun and Unique Experiential Learning) is offered to adolescents with disabilities from age 11 through 17. Here’s a post from Sydnee Henson, Lead Counselor at Camp FUEL, about the value camp experiences have on youth with disabilities.

By Sydnee Henson

We created Camp FUEL so that our campers could interact, gain confidence in common activities, have fun and learn. Our campers spend a large portion of each camp day in the community enjoying a variety of experiences from visiting parks, eating out at local restaurants, exploring creative outlets like screen printing and spending time with peers.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find a community of people who are committed to serving individuals with disabilities, but Easterseals has done that. It is such an empowering experience to work with others who are dedicated to shouting out the worth and value of those with disabilities.

I graduated in May with a degree in elementary and special education, and I will start a new job this fall as a high school life skills teacher. Still, my connections with campers and families has kept me coming back to camp each summer.

I have one parent who consistently comments about how surprised she is that her child is not shouting at the end of each day. This camper is very vocal about her emotions, but each day, she calmly colors a picture of a girl at camp while she waits for her mom to pick her up. This same camper has grown so much from her camp orientation night a few weeks ago. Originally overwhelmed by all the new experiences at camp, she now tells counselors “change is good” with a smile on her face.

Camp FUEL fills a much-needed void in our community for teenagers. For many of our participants, it can be difficult to find activities over the summer that will be successful experiences for them. Our campers have siblings who go to overnight camps, music camps or even spend their summers working. Camp FUEL is an option where campers can have their own unique experiences, make their own memories and engage with their families when they get home about their day.

For our campers, success and accomplishment can mean a variety of things. Sometimes accomplishment is the story of a camper who made it an entire day without crying; success might be the story of someone who said thank you as he walked out the door. Seeing the faces of our parents at the end of each day is proof enough for me of every success and every accomplishment for our campers. Ultimately, having campers who don’t want to leave at the end of each day coupled with parents who are shocked by their child’s desire to stay at camp – that is a happy camp experience for everyone.



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