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Summer Camping with RMHC
Friends and great memories are made at summer camp. It’s a place removed from the everyday – where big adventures await.
It’s a place that gives everyone a chance to learn new skills and lessons that a child wouldn’t necessarily learn in the classroom. Above all, it’s a place for kids to be kids, without the restrictions of their parent’s “No’s.”
But when children have special needs many of the traditional summer camp experiences are off-limits. According to the Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, only 17% of summer camps provide programs for children with special needs.
Several RMHC Chapters recognized this gap and as a part of their approach to holistic, family-centered care, sought to give the benefits of a summer camp or retreat experience to the children they served at their Ronald McDonald House program.
Today there are more than 10 RMHC Camps and Retreats that provide outdoor activities and fun for children with special needs. RMHC Chapters from Northern California to Southern California; Denver to Houston; New York City to Philadelphia; Australia to New Zealand have seen the possibilities and confidence that the great outdoors offers children with life-threatening diseases, disabilities, or other handicaps.
“Camp creates an even playing field for everyone. Our Camp removes all barriers – physical and mental,” says Vicky Flaig, executive director of Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake. “Our campers never say, ‘Oh I can’t do that.’ Rather they ask ’When can we do archery? When can go on a canoe? When can we go swimming?’ Every summer I see the world physically opening up for my campers. I see the possibilities expanding.”
Pam Whitaker, executive director, RMHC of Denver, runs the 31-year old Sky High Hope Camp for kids with cancer and their siblings and says, “A camper once told me ‘the best thing about having cancer is Sky High Hope Camp.’ The whole staff has seen the magic of Camp and how each week lends itself to personal transformations and fun.”
In Australia, the RMHC Chapter offers long-term stay families a chance to find a similar outlet at one of their five Ronald McDonald Family Retreats. In keeping with a focus on family-centered care, and the well being of the child, the Retreats give families time away from the hospital – to focus on normality and stress relief.
This summer more than 10,000 children and families will benefit from RMHC Camps and Retreat programs. That’s more than 10,000 children and families who will have the chance to experience the magic of the outdoors – a chance for them to build confidence and defy what was thought possible.