Get Outside! Why EVERYONE Should Go to Summer Camp

By Tracy Morley and Sarah Facey, Camp Awakening

Every summer, hundreds of thousands of children and youth go to summer camp. As anyone working in youth development or therapeutic recreation will tell you, the best thing you can ever do for your child is to send them to camp. It's an amazing and magical time spent with other kids and teens where they form long-lasting friendships, gain independence, develop new skills and interests, discover the wonders of nature…and have A LOT of fun!

Camp Awakening

Ontario-based Camps Offer Opportunities for Different Levels of Abilities

As the experts at state, "Camp provides a safe environment where kids can establish their independence and get a taste of what it's like to do things on their own." Camps provide the place to discover freedom, friendship, variety, nature, new interests and future opportunities for success. 

For children and teens with physical disabilities, there are a variety of summer experiences to choose from, plus leadership development programs for young adults and even summer holiday getaways for those over the age of 25. Additional information and resources are included at the end of this article. 

Climbing with Camp Awakening

Focusing on traditional children's summer camps within Ontario there are several fully supportive, specialized programs, as well as many integrated, mainstream camps—each offering a variety of staff & medical support and levels of accessibility. Or, in the case of Camp Awakening, a unique program which offers the best of both worlds. 

Wilderness Adventures Await at Abilities Expo Toronto Partner Camp Awakening

Camp Awakening welcomes campers between 9-18 years of age and operates out of two established summer camps—Kilcoo Camp for boys and Camp Oconto for girls. Camp Awakening is just one cabin group in summer camps of more than 200 people!  Campers enjoy wilderness adventures through a vibrant canoe-tripping program and numerous in-camp activities such as swimming, sailing, kayaking, land sports, climbing towers, horseback riding, archery, drama and arts & crafts. Activities are tackled at each camper's own pace and level of ability with enthusiastic support from trained staff.

Paddling with Camp Awakening

"Camp Awakening was so amazing and the best experience of my teenage years," says the now 33-year-old Liz Chornenki. "It was a life-changing experience."

"When I got to camp, it was even better than I had imagined. There was something about being in a group of girls who were just like me—strong, happy, independent girls who happened to have disabilities. We could all rely on each other, and there was always someone to talk to about how to deal with things related to our disabilities—from teasing at school, to driving and picking out universities!"

Liz, who has spina bifida, said she didn't feel that way at school where she was the only student with a physical disability. Someone was always putting up roadblocks, telling her she couldn't do one thing or another because she needed crutches and a wheelchair.

At camp, everything from horseback riding to rock climbing, canoeing and portaging were hers to discover. And she did.

Hanging out with Camp Awakening

"Camp was a huge learning experience for me, as I know it is for many other kids and teens. I learned how to be self-reliant and independent, and how to ask for help when I did need it. I learned how to get along in a pretty diverse group of people—different personalities, abilities and life experiences. This has served me well in adulthood. I know exactly what I am capable of, and am rarely afraid to 'just go for it' when there is something I want to do."

"Inside the cabin was an opportunity to be with those who understood disabilities and outside we were integrated into an able-bodied camp—we were campers like everyone else," she says.

 "I think the most important thing I learned at camp was that I could do anything."

Camping Experience Lays Groundwork for Future Success

Parents, do you still need convincing? Ask yourself if you feel that taking turns is a skill? What about working as a team? Or developing confidence to try new things? Camp is a place where these soft skills and so many others are "practiced" every day, but usually in ways that campers don't even realize.

Tennis with Camp Awakening

If that's not enough, researchers at the University of Waterloo and the Canadian Camping Association have completed research proving that camp is beneficial to positive youth development by helping children build stronger social networks and grow in terms of personal development and self-confidence.  Camps also help promote and encourage healthy active lifestyles and change how campers relate to the environment and their impact on it.

So, let's get ready for camp this summer! 

Visit Camp Awakening in Booth #263 at Abilities Expo Toronto January 20-22, 2017.

Canadian Camping Resources

About the Authors:

Tracy Morley is the Executive Director at Camp Awakening, a dream job which allows her to combine over 12 years of not-for-profit experience with a lifetime of summer camp knowledge. She is passionate about outdoor recreation and firmly believes in the life-changing magic of camp. She wishes she could start every day jumping in a lake and end each day around a campfire.

The Assistant Director at Camp Awakening, Sarah Facey helps manage camp programs and operations and provides office support for Awakening's charitable activities. Sarah brings with her 19 summers of camp experience during which she has held a variety of leadership positions, most recently as a Day Camp Director. For Sarah, summer camp played a monumental role in her childhood so naturally she believes that all children deserve the chance for the same experience.


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