Day 67: A Summer of Independence

Submitted through Catholic Charities Community Services of Summit County By Tessy F. and Sheila M.

For many families in America, spring is the time of year to start thinking about summer plans. Many parents consider sending their children to summer camp. They begin this process by considering the interests of their children, and what quality programs in the area match them. But for parents of children with special needs, finding that program can be a challenge.

This past spring, the Smith family (not their real name) took on that challenge. Their daughter, Mary, a fifteen year old with developmental delays and a seizure disorder, had never been to summer camp. Then one day, Mary came home from school with a brochure for the SumFun Day Camp.

Going away to camp had never seemed possible for Mary. According to her mother, Mary was painfully shy and worried a great deal about having a seizure in a public place. She was uncomfortable in settings where she did not have either her sister or one of her parents present to assist her. When they could not be present during the school day, for instance, Mary was accompanied by a nurse at all times. She did not attend social gatherings or enjoy after-school activities like other young people her age because she did not feel comfortable or confident of her safety in those settings. She missed a great deal of school due to her extreme shyness and anxieties about her health.

But the SumFun Day Camp seemed like it would be a good fit for Mary. There was a nurse on site and well-trained counselors. Since it was hosted at the local high school, she would be close to home in case of an emergency. And she would be home in her own bed every night. The activities certainly sounded like fun—who wouldn’t enjoy swimming, arts and crafts, and field trips? She apprehensively agreed to give it a try.

SumFun was an immediate hit for Mary! There were other campers there with whom she was able to socialize and develop lasting friendships. The activities were fun and exciting, and the counselors were kind and patient. Mary felt safe at SumFun.

Mrs. Smith reports that the Mary who enjoyed an awesome summer at SumFun Day Camp is now different from the Mary who formerly worried about her health in social situations. She has not missed a day of school, and has been telling her family that she wants to start enjoying her life more. Mary has since registered in the Recreational Respite program, a weekend recreation program for adolescents and adults with disabilities. There, she is able to spend time with friends she made during the summer, as well as make new ones. In October, she spent a night at Camp Christopher with the Rec Respite group. She also has gone to the zoo and out to dinner with her new friends. Mary is developing a social network of her own and having a great time doing it.

Trying something new can sometimes be difficult. Mrs. Smith was inspired by the SumFun brochure Mary brought home from school. Perhaps she thought, “This could be the answer to how we can keep Mary connected with other kids in the summer, and enjoy different activities at the same time.” As for Mary, taking those first steps through the adventuresome door to SumFun Camp has been well worth the risk. She had experienced a summer of independence!



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