CAMP - A FASD Community referred to as “CAMP"
Utilize YMCA Camp Duncan
Tell us a little about your camp?
We are a camp for children ages 9- 18 affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, known as FASD. FASD is a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems (source https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html).
As the parent and my son a sibling of an adoptive child with FASD, it was our vision to establish a camp that serves as a support network for families and individuals affected by FASD. CAMP is supported by a strong team of clinicians and professionals. We work together to provide a safe structured environment for campers with programs specifically geared to improve their social, emotional, and cognitive development.
What are some things that unique to your camp?
Our camp is unique because all campers have FASD. They recognize there are other people like them that have “FASD” as well, campers shared with us they are able to communicate and establish friendships better at camp than outside of camp. We also have a staff trained specifically in FASD, including behavioral health professionals, medical professionals, and camp counselors. We developed a program for campers, called the “Rock Star” program. Each day campers are recognized for their contributions at camp, examples include being a good friend to another camper, doing a good job showing a good example, being positive… Each camp counselor will tell a story of the camper and award them their “rock” with an engraving, as a symbol of their good behavior.
What is a typical day like for a camper?
A typical day for a camper at our camp is like anywhere else, doing the same activities that any other camp will do. We utilize YMCA Camp Duncan for our week long camp because they have experience working first hand with a special needs population. They lead the majority of activities, while our camp counselors trained in FASD, provide additional supervision for our campers. Campers grow in self-esteem and confidence as they try new activities, they do not feel pressure to “fit in”, there is no competition, just kids having fun. There are times when campers have a difficulty adjusting to camp, but we are there with them to encourage them and listen to them, letting them know that they are very special and we care.
How many staff and campers do you host in the summer?
We hosted 27 campers this year in our second year in operation, up from 13 campers our first year.
What is the philosophy of your camp?
Our philosophy is for campers to enjoy themselves, in a safe, structured environment, while having respect for others. The benefits of attending camp are:
We understand this is sometimes the first time the camper has been away from home for an overnight stay, and the parents many times have not had a break either. So it is very important to us to be able to provide this opportunity not only for campers but for their families as well.
What are growing challenges of your camp?
Some of the growing challenges of our camp are maintaining funding and retaining staff. FASD is not well known, and it is difficult to obtain funding as there is not a high population awareness as some other conditions. We are hopeful to retain much of staff next year, but this is another challenge is maintaining staffing.
What are some things your camp does really well?
We are fortunate to partner with a great camp, YMCA Camp Duncan. Together we strive to provide the camper with a fun experience. At CAMP, we understand FASD, and are prepared to deal with the challenges and celebrate the successes. Our staff are all volunteers and they are here because they care about the campers and it shows. We do a good job allowing each camper to work to their strengths and learn to work together as a team.
How long has the camp been with ACA Illinois?
We have been working with ACA Illinois for four years. ACA Illinois assisted us in getting started if it wasn’t for Gordie we wouldn’t be where we are today. I still remember the call to Gordie at ACA Illinois, he was in 100% to help us build our camp.
How long has your camp been accredited?
We completed our first accreditation visit this summer!
Why do you choose accreditation?
It is important to us to operate at the highest standards possible. We would like to demonstrate to families, that we are serious about camping, and quality, and obtaining the accreditation, shows that our business meets the highest standards in the camping industry.