By Kurt Nantz, Dignity Now/ Developmental Connections Intern
I am hoping some of you get the reference to the title. In 1963 Alan Sherman released his novelty hit which is also the title for this blog “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”. It is a letter home from a young man begging to be sent home to escape the perils of poison ivy, an alligator filled lake, man eating bears, ptomaine poisoning and missing campers, among other things.
At the end of the letter, after he has terrified his parents, the boy tells his Muddah and Faddah that the rain has stopped and all is well. The letter ends with “Muddah, Fadduh, please disregard this letter”.
While I always got a kick out the song I must say that when I was first approached with idea of sending my six-year-old, nonverbal son with autism to camp, it was a bit daunting and even more so for my wife. A few years previous we were forced to turn in a family member for abuse against him and we could never allow that to happen again. Not only that, we wondered if they would be able to deal with one of his monster meltdowns. Would they be able to coax him into taking supplements? The first year we sent him he had not even been fully toilet trained.
Despite all our concerns we sent him to Camp Barnabas. It turned out to be a great experience for him and he is registered to go this summer for the ninth consecutive year. Camp Barnabas promises life-changing experiences and for Nick (my son) they have delivered on that promise every year. It has also given us a full week of respite to recharge from the rigors of autism parenting. Camp Barnabas has Missouri locations in Shell Knob and Purdy and conducts camps throughout the summer. Besides offering experiences for people with disabilities they also offer camps for neurotypical siblings who often feel the need to connect with peers who share their unique circumstance.
Camp Barnabas provides camping experiences to people with special needs and chronic illnesses. “Utilizing the camp venue, our organization provides ministry and social experiences that increase spiritual knowledge, social learning, and human dignity. Camp Barnabas goes beyond one week at summer camp. The Barnabas experience changes perspectives and redefines disability.” (From the Barnabas website)
Another camp for children with disabilities that gets rave review from parents is Wonderland Camp. Wonderland Camp provides a fun, educational, nurturing and individualized camping experience for campers of all ability levels. Wonderland Camp is the fulfillment of the dream of its founder Charles Miller who wanted to offer children with disabilities the experience of outdoor recreation.
Whichever camp you choose, I believe most parents will find the benefits of summer outweigh the anxious feelings of letting strangers watch over your kids for a week. A few of these include:
- Much needed respite for caregivers
- Opportunities to build friendships for campers
- Unique recreational opportunities
Developmental Connections provides scholarships for both camps, with the application period beginning early in the year. Camp Barnabas offers many scholarships for those in financial need. Many parents have their kids participate in fund raisers to help pay for camp. In previous years we have had Nick sell his paintings at different venues, the past three years he has done his own personal bike-a-thon with Facebook friends sponsoring him through GoFundMe. Missing camp is no longer an option for our family. If you’re not sending your kid to camp this summer, for whatever reason, you might want to reconsider.