Bright dewy mornings, splashing in the lake, s’mores by the campfire, sleeping under the stars, and blooming friendships are just some of the memories created at camp. Camp also helps those who attend develop qualities that will help them succeed in the future, including resilience, self-reliance, and social adaptability. Being away from home and among peers can help children develop social skills and cultivate independence. Camp activities, aside from being fun and interactive, can also help children gain confidence. As the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and Inland Regional Center (IRC) collaborate to offer camp and social recreation services to our clients, it may be a good time to have a conversation with your child about camp. Parents may find the idea of their child spending the summer at a sleepaway camp inconceivable. The overwhelming emotions concerning home and sleepaway camp can be difficult to overcome, however, with the right tools and support, the benefits of camp can more than outweigh any conceivable risk.
IRC Consumer Advocates, Stephen Donahue and Cody Williams, share their camp experience and why they encourage everyone to attend camp, at least once in their lifetime. Stephen attended E-KAAMP back in the summer of 2019. E-KAAMP is a one-week day camp hosted by Chasing 7 Dreams in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The purpose of this camp “is to allow kids with abilities, such as autism, the opportunity to experience a camp that foster friendship, compassion, developmental and life skills through therapeutic activities”, says Tenika Doyle, Founder of Chasing 7 Dreams. Stephen shared his decision to attend this specific camp was in an effort “to engage and build the relationship with IRC clients as well as getting to experience my own camp like experience”, and that is exactly what he did. During the course of one week, Stephen took part in all the activities offered, including an obstacle course, reptile encounter, and a yoga session. “What I gained from the experience”, recalls Stephen, “was the understanding of why clients look forward each year to attend camp. I would absolutely recommend camp to any client of IRC, as they can gain, and build upon skills, make memories and potentially strong connections that can form long lasting friendships”.
Cody’s camp experience dates back to 2001. After promoting from the 6th grade, Cody had the opportunity to attend a sleepaway camp offering a rotating schedule filled with activities. “I remember an Earth Science camping expedition where the class leader talked about photosynthesis and the layers of the Earth, (which I already knew) but I also tried archery, learned how to use a compass for a scavenger hunt and enjoyed the recreational room”, said Cody. He also appreciated the camp’s zero waste policy, “whatever I couldn’t finish for breakfast was sent to an animal farm which I got to visit once”. This zero waste policy introduces camp goers to lifestyle changes and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
Camp allows time to decompress and relax, among other things. It allows children to reconnect with nature and experience the outdoors that enrich a child’s perception of the world. Camp is also a place where kids meet and make best friends. It is the perfect environment for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding them. Children welcome this experience as a freedom to blossom in new directions that translate into every aspect of their life and carries on into adulthood.
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