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Because Everyone Deserves a Summer to Remember
Warm weather may feel like a far-off dream, but summer will be here before we know it! Parents everywhere are planning their child’s summer camp adventures — sunny days spent splashing in the pool, hiking, roasting marshmallows, or making arts and crafts.
But for caregivers of children and adults with disabilities, finding the right fit can be difficult.
Parents often wonder: Will my child be understood and accepted? Will they feel safe? Are the staff trained in the types of care my child needs? Are medical staff available for emergencies? Will they get to participate in the same fun camp activities as their peers?
At SOAR365’s Summer Camp at Camp Baker, the answer to all of these questions is: yes!
Camper Spotlight: “You don’t realize Samuel has autism until you start interacting with him,” says his mother, Cynthia. “Samuel has so many talents, but communication is very difficult for him.” He also struggles with structured activities, which often have one-size-fits-all expectations. While Samuel’s siblings attended a variety of camp and summer programs each year, Samuel wasn’t able to participate — until he found SOAR365.
At SOAR365’s Summer Camp, Samuel grins from ear to ear while paddle boating, canoeing, participating in the talent show, swimming and horseback riding. And while he’s having fun, Samuel has also learned to be open to new activities, better manage frustration and increase his independence.
Making Memories, Making a Difference
Since 1956, SOAR365 has operated an accessible summer camp for both children and adults with disabilities at our Camp Baker location in Chesterfield County.
With over 22 wooded acres to explore, SOAR365’s campers enjoy a best-in-class, traditional summer camp experience, including: horseback riding, arts and crafts, sports, fishing, music and drama activities, hiking, and even outdoor tent camping.
SOAR365’s Summer Camp provides:
- A safe, welcoming environment, where campers feel comfortable and loved.
- A beautiful natural setting where campers can enjoy the great outdoors.
- Trusted assistance with personal hygiene, meals, toileting, medication management, and activities, with nursing staff available to provide medical services.
- A mix of therapeutic, recreational, and social activities, so that campers are not only having tons of fun — they are growing and developing new skills!
- A low staff-to-camper ratio that ensures high-quality programming and individualized attention.
SOAR365’s compassionate Summer Camp counselors understand disability and celebrate each camper for being exactly who they are. In fact, many of the counselors are being trained in disability-related fields.
This knowledge helps them to provide individualized support and encouragement to campers, with a focus on achieving each camper’s educational and developmental goals.
And because SOAR365’s counselors come from all over the world, campers gain exposure to a broad range of cultures and backgrounds. Meeting new people is always one of the best parts of summer camp. At Camp Baker, campers also get to spend time with peers who have disabilities, bonding over shared experiences, improving social skills and building friendships.
“A day in the life of a camper is just happiness, honestly,” says Latashia McLeod, Director of Camp & Respite Services. “Being able to do things that they like and enjoy, having laughs and fun. We have a lot of scenery, we have a lot of opportunities here, so we take pleasure in being able to support our participants in [doing] anything that they set their hearts to do.”
And those activities aren’t just limited to Camp Baker. “Every year, we try to add on different places to travel to or different museums to go to as well,” Latashia explains.
This year, SOAR365’s Summer Camp runs from June 12 to August 19, offering 10 one-week sessions of overnight camp. Eight of those weeks will be for adults only and two of the weeks will be reserved for children (ages 6 and up).
Camper Spotlight: Just like Samuel, Sade loves her overnight stays at SOAR365’s Summer Camp.
Her parents, Clarissa and Bill, believe summer camp is therapeutic, giving their daughter a chance to rest, unwind, and explore. It also fosters independence and provides an opportunity for Sade to socialize. When she comes home, she is a little more confident.
Clarissa admits it was initially hard to find a place that met Sade’s needs, which include bathing and dressing assistance. But at SOAR365, “they look after her properly; you can trust them.”
Meeting Your Family’s Needs
Campers’ families often describe Summer Camp at Camp Baker as “a lifesaver” and “a relief.” They’re grateful for both the inclusive nature of this camp and the respite it provides.
“I have no worries at all when Samuel is at Summer Camp! When Samuel is at school, I always worry about other kids being unkind to him, but at camp, I don’t have a thing to worry about. I feel secure,” says Samuel’s mom, Cynthia.
Parents can rest assured that the happiness, health and safety of each camper is SOAR365’s top priority. That’s why the following will be requirements for the 2022 Summer Camp season:
- All campers must be fully vaccinated to attend summer camp (ages 12 and up).
- All SOAR365 staff and counselors will be fully vaccinated.
- Rapid COVID-19 test required for campers, within 5 days before start of their session(s).
- Masks will be required indoors, and during other activities where distancing is not possible.
- Overnight camp will be half capacity, with 25 campers, so that living space can be spread out in the Retreat.
*These regulations and rules could change in the months leading up to summer camp, as we follow guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With planning for any unexpected changes, a summer day camp model will be the alternative camp option if needed.
SOAR365’s Summer Camp is also fully accredited by the American Camp Association, which ensures that our current practices reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in the industry.
Happy Campers, Happy Families
From stargazing to face painting and everything in between, there are so many memories to be made at SOAR365’s Summer Camp. The benefits include summer fun for campers, relief for caregivers, and real progress towards individual goals.
As the parent of one Summer Camp participant shares, “Each time my child visits Camp Baker I see improvements. It’s a wonderful place that gives our family a real break and peace of mind. It truly is a big help to us.”
Want to join in the fun? Reserve your spot today! Apply online at soar365.org/summer-camp (paper application available upon request).
The deadline for all applications is Tuesday May 3, 2022, for sessions 1-5 and Friday, June 3, 2022, for sessions 6-10.
If you have any questions or trouble finding out the online application, contact Latashia.Mcleod@soar365.org or by phone at (804) 665-1272 (office) or (804) 350-6022 (mobile).
SOAR365 is a Richmond-based, not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1954 by local families determined to find a better way to care for their loved ones with disabilities. SOAR365 employs about 260 individuals, including over 100 who have a disability. Our wide range of programs and services are designed for individuals and families who are coping with the daily, real-world challenges of living with a disability. We have a profound impact on over 1,500 individuals and families who receive our help in a typical year. For more information, please visit SOAR365.org and our social media channels.
Read about SOAR365 in this article which was published in RFM.