In May 2005 I was looking for something for my 9-year-old daughter Angel to do to keep her busy over the summer. I remember calling the Akron Rotary Camp for Children with Special Needs and talking to Dan about summer day camp. He told me they were full for day camp but he had openings for overnight camp. My first reaction was wow! How in the world is day camp sold out in early May? I couldn’t plan next week, let alone for June, July or August.
But after talking to Dan I decided to try the overnight camp for a week and see how Angel did. And what the heck, I only lived 15 minutes from camp if they [the camp staff]had any problems and needed us. We dropped Angel off on Sunday and heard nothing from the camp until we picked her up on Friday morning. She did great and so did the camp staff. Angel was happy and healthy. She was glad to see us but she had so much fun.
On pickup day that first year we learned the camp ran year-round with monthly respite weekends. We started having her go monthly, not as a respite for us, but as a respite for her from us. Angel had never been invited to sleep over’s [other than to grandma’s], she was not invited to many birthday parties and when we had her parties no one from school would show up. She had “friends” at school but outside of the school buildings they were not friends. Respite weekends soon became her monthly slumber parties. Over the years there has been a group of girls who have grown up together. The girls would paint finger/toe nails, put on way to much makeup, stay up late, and I’m sure as the girls turned into teenagers giggle and talk about boys. These girls have made true friendships.
Angel has grown and learned so much because of her camp experience. A 9-year-old who was terrified of water is now a 17-year-old water bug. A 9-year-old who relied on mom to help with everyday self help needs is a pretty independent 17-year-old. But most importantly, a 9-year-old with no friends has a cabin full of friends every month.