Support Through Camp: Specialty Camps Meet the Unique Needs of Kids

Support Through Camp: Specialty Camps Meet the Unique Needs of Kids

- in May 2016, Parenting, Special Needs
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Camp Cheerful provides a variety of activities for those with or without special needs.

To most families, the end of a school year is synonymous with going to summer camp, where kids engage in new experiences, make new friends and create life-long memories.  Some parents are finding there are unique camps around Northeast Ohio offering much more than the traditional fun activities.

Some camps give children the tools they need to thrive. These specialized support camps are for children managing medical and developmental issues, or even those dealing with things such as the loss of a loved one.

 Help with Healing 

Isaiah attended one of Cornerstone of Hope’s four bereavement camps, which have traditional camp activities along with meaningful grief discussions and memorial programs.

“Camp helped just getting out of the house and trusting people,” he says. “When we let go of the luminaries, I kind of let go of my grandma’s death. Then, it helped me let go of other losses, too. I also had a lot of fun.”

Rachel Rego, marketing director for Cornerstone of Hope, says, “Children and teens are able to express themselves and their feelings in a safe space with others who have gone through similar experiences. “

Sometimes children may feel a sense of isolation after losing a loved one. Professionals who work with children in these positions feel that it’s a good idea to put them in the company of children to whom they can relate.

Karen Hatfield, team leader for counseling services for Hospice of the Western Reserve, which also offers a variety of camps for kids who are grieving, says, “Kids sometimes tell us that they can share things and ask questions at camp that they don’t want to ask at home or in school. The camp setting and our staff provide a safe place for kids to freely explore the changes in their world.

Suffering the loss of a loved one is tough, but when brought about by an act of violence, healing often is more difficult.

Peace Camp, created by Coalition For A Better Life, creates an environment to bring children and teens together to talk about their feelings and participate in summer activities to heal the youth directly affected. Campers work on projects that develop mediation and conflict resolution skills, while being an example of using teamwork as peacemakers.

Support and Interaction

Some camps provide not only support for those dealing with medical needs, but also social interaction.

For example, Camp Ho Mita Koda from the Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland helps empower children and teens ages 4-17 to manage their diabetes, make healthy choices, take personal responsibility, build self-esteem, friendships and a life-long support network, according to Lori Izeman, spokeswoman for the nonprofit group. An on-site, trained medical team oversees the diabetes management of each camper with registered dietitians who plan meals, snacks and nutrition activities.

“Parents enjoy peace of mind knowing that supervision is provided by highly-qualified medical and support staff at our six-day and 13-day overnight programs,”  Izeman adds.

Achievement Centers for Children Camp Cheerful has services offered throughout the summer for campers with and without disabilities.

Katherine Henry, manager of marketing communications for Achievement Centers for Children. says. “If you have a child with special needs, you want the same experiences and opportunities for your child as their peers.”

Kim Hawkins’ son has been attending camp for the past four years, and takes therapeutic horseback riding lessons. “I know my son is in good hands when we drop him off in the morning, and there is always someone looking out for my little guy.”

Jeff Sauter, former camper of Camp Cheerful, says “Going to camp (was) like taking a vacation from my disability.”

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