Camp Easter Seals
The staff at Camp Easter Seals UCP emphasizes good fun at all times.
New Castle’s Camp Easter Seals UCP is the year’s highlight for Carla: “It is the only place I can go and feel independent and normal…like I am worth something and part of real life… everyone looks past my disability and likes me for who I am.” This camp offers kids a chance to be kids, even through their quotes. “I love it, I want to come back and kiss the moose again,” says camper David.
The camp’s summer and year-round weekend respite programs are also available for teens, young adults, adults and families. They offer the “camp” experiences but also an accepting atmosphere conducive for growth and learning.
Easter Seals and United Cerebral Palsy both are national organizations and the affiliation made it to Craig County in 1957. The 1907 inspiration came when Ohio-businessman Edgar Allen lost his son in a streetcar accident. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital.
Now support is available for individuals and families managing a broad range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, muscular dystrophy, stroke, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, hearing and visual impairments and mental health diagnoses. Guided by four core values – integrity, respect, responsibility and innovation, the mission is to create opportunities, promote individual choice, and to change the lives of children and adults with disabilities by maximizing their individual potential to live, learn and work in their communities.
This summer, there is a specific week for children and young adults with vision impairment or blindness in cooperation with the Virginia Department for Blind and Vision Impaired. The week after is a performing arts camp with experienced teachers in dance, drumming, and gymnastics (several from Roanoke’s Baa-da-bing Family Center).
“It all culminates into a wonderful show for friends and family at the end of the week,” says Camp Director Alex Barge. The final week families are invited and get their own cabin that sleeps up to 20. “They bring siblings, friends, and relatives and we provide the food, fun, and an accepting atmosphere,” says Barge.
The accepting atmosphere stems from hardworking help. In addition to the year-round staff, the camp’s summers require more than 60 volunteers, 30 camp counselors, eight program staff, five kitchen staff, three laundry staff, and two part-time facilities staff.
All in all, Barge feels, “the campers change the staff more than the staff changes the campers.”