Bring on the Fun With SOAR365’s Summer Camp for Kids and Adults with Disabilities
Just the words “summer camp” bring back happy memories. Long, sunny days spent splashing in the pool, making arts and crafts, going on nature hikes and roasting marshmallows. And the wonderful friendships made along the way.
At SOAR365’s Summer Camp at Camp Baker, kids and adults with disabilities can experience the joy of summer camp, too.
Nature & Activities
Set in twenty-two peaceful acres of woodlands, Camp Baker has been home to SOAR365’s Summer Camp since 1954. This lush, green location is perfect for traditional summer camp activities, like tent camping, fishing, horseback riding, and paddle boating. It also features a swimming pool and plenty of space for dance parties, face painting and talent shows.
With a little extra care and support, everyone gets to join in the fun! Like Rusty Graham. Rusty’s favorite things are playing sports, creating art and making new friends. It’s no wonder, then, that if you ask him his favorite part of SOAR365’s Summer Camp, he says, “Everything!”
Rusty, who has Down syndrome, is 27 years old and full of energy. From the time he was a toddler, he’s played sports in a variety of programs for children and adults with disabilities, including TOPSoccer, Buddy Ball and the Special Olympics.
And he loves his teammates as much as the athletics. In fact, he took one day off from Summer Camp to attend an end-of-season pizza party with his coach and friends. When his mother, Pam, arrived to pick him up, she was impressed by how friendly the SOAR365 staff and participants were.
“Everyone was so nice! They all came up and introduced themselves. Everyone seemed so happy to meet Rusty’s mom,” she says.
This year, Latashia McLeod, Director of Summer Camp and Respite, is excited to add a Photography Activity Leader position. This staff member will teach campers basic photography skills, as well as help capture those special camp memories to send to family members.
Staff & Facilities
SOAR365’s compassionate camp counselors come from all over the world, giving campers a chance to learn about new cultures. Many are also being trained in disability-related fields. Summer Camp gives them a chance to learn in a hands-on environment and use the knowledge they’ve gained.
“Campers love meeting new staff members,” notes Latashia. And families love them as well. Nearly 98% of families surveyed said that SOAR365’s Summer Camp seeks to understand and meet the needs of their loved one and provides a safe environment.
The cabins and dining hall are specially designed with accessibility in mind, and SOAR365’s Summer Camp is fully accredited by the American Camp Association. With medical staff on hand for emergencies, parents and caregivers can also relax and get the respite they deserve.
“What I love most is seeing how excited each camper gets when attending Camp Baker. I love seeing the familiar faces and the new ones,” says Latashia. Summer Camp allows both kids and adults with disabilities a chance to make new friends, learn new skills, build confidence and be independent.
While he arrived at camp with one close friend, Rusty left with many more. “Rusty’s always been very friendly and outgoing. He loves to compliment people, and he loves to help out,” says Pam.
Not only is he active in his church, but Rusty is also a lifelong Boy Scout. He hopes to become an Eagle Scout this year, once he earns his badges in cycling and emergency preparedness.
This makes him feel right at home at Camp Baker, where Pam says he enjoyed swimming, arts and crafts, horseback riding and paddle boating. It was Rusty’s first time attending a two-week sleepaway camp, but it won’t be his last. She hopes he might also get to try tent camping when he comes back with his friends this summer.
“Thank you for having such a wonderful camp for families to send their children to,” says Pam.
This year, SOAR365’s Summer Camp will be offered for 10 week-long sessions (eight for adults and two for children). Campers will have the choice to stay overnight or attend during the day only. Application deadlines will be staggered: April 28, 2023, for Sessions 1-3; May 26, 2023, for Sessions 4-6; and June 19, 2023, for Sessions 7-10.
All campers and staff are required to take a COVID test prior to each week at camp. (These regulations and rules could change in the months leading up to summer camp, as we follow VDH/CDC guidelines.)
Ready to join in the fun? Apply today! Visit soar365.org/summer-camp to learn more (paper application available upon request).
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).
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About SOAR365 SOAR365 is a Richmond-based not-for-profit organization created in 1954 by area families who were determined to find a better way of caring for their loved ones with disabilities. We employ nearly 300 individuals, including more than 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 nearly 1,150 individuals and families who receive our help each year. For more information, please visit www.SOAR365.org and our social media channels.