“When a family has a child with special needs, the whole family has special needs.” Adam’s Camp Founder Karel Horney
The third leg of the Adam’s Camp tripod here at Snow Mountain Ranch is our siblings program, which is designed to give the brothers and sisters of therapy campers their own summer camp experience and give them the opportunity to be around peers who share similar family circumstances. As one of our board members pointed out, the siblings of children with special needs are often thrust into carrying more responsibility than typical children, be it helping care for the child with special needs or helping more with household chores.
Before this year’s session, Adam’s Camp erased the whiteboard and rebooted the entire siblings program. This started with hiring new sibling program coordinators who have a deep history in education and running summer camps and who brought an exciting new vision of what the program could be. Early returns have been strong as we have received tremendously positive feedback on the new and improved program.
To execute the vision for taking the siblings program to a new level, it would take more than experience and great ideas, it would take a strong core of young volunteers. As with our other programs, the young people who have stepped forward to volunteer in the siblings program have excelled. The siblings program is usually the first step for new Adam’s Camp volunteers – their first year of volunteering is usually in the siblings program and then they move up to the adventure program or the therapy program if they return, which a nice number have. Many of our awesome adventure counselors, who are seasonal employees, began with Adam’s Camp as sibling volunteers.
Serving as a sibling volunteer is no walk in the park and to see the work ethic and attitude of these young people, most of who are between the ages of 14-17, is refreshing. Some of our sibling volunteers this year are siblings of a child with special needs themselves, which brings the added benefit of relating to the sibling campers that much more.
The sibling volunteers start their days at 8:00 A.M. as they prepare the siblings to be dropped off for the day at 8:30 A.M. The sibling camp day runs through 2:15 P.M. to mirror the therapy camp day. A typical sibling camp day would be what you expect at summer camp: swimming, archery, day trips to Rocky Mountain National Park and Winter Park, zip-ling, tubing and more.
At the end of the camp day, the volunteers’ work is a little more than half done. They return to the Adam’s Camp headquarter cabin and spend the next 90 minutes helping the chef prepare dinner for 150 and cleaning up, often handling tasks they have never done before at home. It was great yesterday to see the campers singing along with the radio while working and making games of some of the food prep and cleaning. Mopping floors and wiping down tables is not the most fun activity, which is why it was inspiring to see them work with such great attitudes.
(Our awesome sib volunteers prepping dinner)
After the dinner hour, the siblings will spend an hour or so as a group debriefing from the day and reviewing the next day’s schedule. Then they will again help with cleaning the kitchen and preparing food for the next day’s lunch. After all that, you would expect them to retreat, but instead last night after their work was complete, they gathered together to play games and have their own campfire. I envision and hope that several years from now, these future leaders will look back and say, “Remember that awesome summer when we were sibling volunteers at Adam’s camp? That was a blast.”
Watching these young volunteers in action was just more evidence of how Adam’s Camp works to strengthen families and how it has an impact on everybody involved, not just the campers. Awesome stuff.
(I never tire of the therapy horses – these pics are from yesterday’s rides on these kind, gentle giants)
Adam’s Camp Executive Director Jay Clark is blogging regularly on the fly from Adam’s Camp 2015 at Snow Mountain Ranch. Please pardon any typos.