PORTAGE LAKES, Ohio — Camp is everything kids love about summer -- being outside, in the water and surrounded by their peers.
The Rotary Camp for Kids with Special Needs in Akron, makes that experience possible for everyone.
And it's going to new heights soon -- with a little help.
Katie Fox is not like every other 14-year-old, but neither is her summer camp like those you’ve known.
“She loves swimming, she loves being outside,” says her dad, Roe. “The great thing about Rotary Camp is it allows her to get dirty, smelly and sweaty, and come home from camp just like other kids.”
Rotary Camp is for kids, who like Katie, have special needs of some kind.
Roe Fox says his daughter has TSC or tubular sclerosis.
“It’s caused her to be developmentally delayed and have some physical manifestations of her seizures,” he said. “It prevents her from talking. It prevents her from having some very basic human physical tasks that we provide to her when she’s with us.”
Her needs, and those of nearly 100 other campers every day, are met on site. Some in day camp, like Katie. Others, overnight.
“This is a place where kids can just be kids. It doesn’t matter if you walk, or don’t walk, talk or don’t talk, you can be who you are,” said Dan Reynolds, the Akron YMCA’s district Executive Director for Camping Services. “This is where your friends are, and you can do anything you want to do when you’re at camp.”
For Katie and many other kids, that’s swimming here on the Portage Lakes - but fishing, boating, sports and crafts – are all part of camp, too. So is a caring staff trained to make medical and other accommodations.
“It’s so relaxing to be able to send her out here and not have to worry about this,” said Roe of his daughter. “It provides the parent, or parents, with a break. Even though we do it willingly and lovingly, you can’t help but understand that there’s a different wear and tear on you as a parent.”
Rotary Camp for Kids with Special Needs has been offering that since 1924, often at no cost. And just since 2010, they’ve invested $3.5 million into it’s future. Akron Rotary Camp is an independent non-profit, operated by the Akron YMCA.
“What was this little camp that needed fixed up, cleaned up…they took it and they’ve given us what we have today. It’s amazing and we just keep getting better,” said board member Brooks Ames, a Rotarian.
This fall, Rotary Camp is raising money for an adventure course, with high ropes and a zip line. It will expand their world, where as they say, there are only abilities.
And Roe says Katie, can’t wait. “You can’t come here and not want to get involved…It’s such an incredible experience as a human being, to see these kids, that are challenged, who can enjoy things that every other kid gets to enjoy.”
Rotary Camp is always looking for volunteers. It’s hosting a Regatta next month to raise money for its expansion. You can find out more about how to help by clicking here.