One of the places where Leander Spencer, 17, feels most comfortable is in the water. But according to her mother, Katherine, there were few local programs where Leander, who has a severe form of autism, could swim.
Fortunately, the Spencers discovered Camp Baker in Chesterfield County, twenty-two wooded acres near Pocahontas State Park, owned by the county and operated for years by The Greater Richmond ARC (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens). Camp Baker offers week-long overnight summer camp sessions for children ages 6 through adult, along with year-round programs like after-school and respite care for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Although Leander is non-verbal, her happiness at Camp Baker, particularly when she’s in the pool, is immediately evident. That was just one of the benefits the Spencer family realized when their daughter started the summer program. “Camp Baker was a lifesaver,” said Katherine, who described the environment as “safe and comfortable.”
For the past two years, Leander has also been attending Camp Baker’s after school program.
Other year-round programs offered at Camp Baker offer support for families and enriching activities for their developmentally disabled loved ones. Day support is available weekdays for adults requiring a high degree of staff support. Weekend respite provides a 48-hour stay (Friday through Sunday) with meals, daily living assistance, medication and access to recreational activities. Twenty-four hour emergency respite services are also available through Camp Baker.
With its regular camp sessions and respite services, Camp Baker helps reduce stress for families and caregivers. For the Spencers, Camp Baker has become an integral part of family life not only because of the support for Leander, but also because the programs offered have given them the time and energy to help meet the needs of their other children.
Founded in 1957, Camp Baker has undergone many upgrades and renovations over the years, including the construction of a year-round, fully accessible air conditioned lodge, and more recently, an outdoor stage area, as well as an expanded bunk house and dining area.
“While providing families and caregivers a needed respite, our campers enjoy a traditional camp experience with 24-hour nursing care, professional management, and qualified counselors who lead activities like swimming, arts and crafts, archery, and horseback riding, to name just a few,” said Camp Baker Senior Director Shirley O’Brien.