The first time Amy dropped off her son at Camp Stand By Me three years ago, she admits that everyone was a bit nervous. Sam, who was 14 years old at the time, is a wonderful boy that also happens to be non-verbal. At times, he can display some aggressive behaviors and can have difficulty with age appropriate social interactions – which, in turn, can prevent him from joining activities with his peers. “I have spent hours filling out registration packets for other day camps for children with special needs in the area,” said Amy, “and Sam is always told his needs are too high to participate.” Not at Camp Stand By Me.
Amy was calmed almost immediately on arrival when she saw how much care and thought every counselor and nurse showed during the check-in process. Amy said, “They made us feel at home immediately. All the staff were focused on the children from the moment we entered. They set me at ease with their thorough questions and interest in learning about the individual needs and demands of my child. They were full of energy and smiles and I left with confidence knowing Sam would be cared for and shown a good time. ”
Even still, Amy called a few times that week to be sure Sam was doing well. He was having a blast and Amy adds, “Again, the staff was wonderful at calming my nerves.”
Amy shares, “When I picked Sam up from camp, he was busy making the rounds hugging all his friends good-bye. He clearly enjoyed himself. He was sent home with a CD of photographs. When we arrived home, we looked through all the photos together. Sam had a big smile as he enjoyed the photos. It was such a gift to see Sam participating and being active for the week.”
Sam, now 17 years old, has been back to Camp every summer since. He immediately recognizes the camp ground and is thrilled to get out of the car. He makes his way around the grounds with a smile, searching out counselors to hug. Amy says of her last visit, “I was able to leave with confidence knowing my son would be happy and active for the next week.”
“Having a place to send my son for a week is a gift both to him and to our family. I am so grateful to Easterseals Washington and Camp Stand By Me for creating an environment where all children are welcome. Not only does Sam get to have an amazing week, but the rest of our family enjoys a few days of respite from 24/7 care.” Amy and her family are able to recharge!
We’re so happy to be the place for families like Sam and Amy, where everyone involved spends a week doing what they love – playing, laughing, relaxing, and more.
How has Camp impacted your family? We’d love to hear from you! Send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.