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Camp Joy: Making a Difference

In our lives, we have all walked paths that contain hardships. We have felt joy and we have held many celebrations, but for many, their roads come with a few extra twists and winding turns than the average person.  Families that have members diagnosed with autism have many factors in their roads that turn into hardships, but they also have little moments that give the greatest joy and become the cause for milestone celebrations.

This year, Camp Joy, based in Clarkesville, Ohio, hosted its third annual Inclusive Day Camp program in partnership with the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities. This program serves youth from the surrounding counties who have mild to moderate disabilities. Both programs aim to help each camper realize his or her potential through team building exercises and group activities that help to build friends that will last well beyond the days of summer camp.

With dedicated staff, campers, and parents, Camp Joy is able to help people grow and succeed through life-long experienced-based learning,” says Jess Burke, Special Needs and Day Camp Coordinator.

Camp Joy tries to help make a difference in many people’s lives. A big difference in one camper’s life occurred after he attended the Inclusive Day Camp this past summer. This six- year-old camper was ready to explore from day one. He was outgoing and full of life, and he especially enjoyed participating in the water activities. Each day when camp was over and the staff reunited him with his mother, they gave her a report about all the fun things he did and had accomplished that day.

When the week was coming to a close, the grandmother of this child approached the staff to inform them that her grandson hadn’t made eye contact with family members in a very long time, but now, after spending a few days with Camp Joy staff and educators, he came home from camp and looked his mother directly in the eyes. This may be a small accomplishment to those who do not understand the hardships, limitations, and struggles of autism, but to this family, such a moment was a very special gift — one that needed to be celebrated. Moments like these help to make those roads endured by families affected by autism seem less twisted and less winding.

Lori Schwartz
Camp Joy

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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