Nothing signals summer quite like day camp.

I still remember eating hamburgers that had been wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked slowly over a campfire at the day camp I attended in Vero Beach, Fla. when I was in elementary school.  And swimming, of course.  There’s always swimming at summer camp.  And crafts.  Didn’t everyone weave macramé plant hangers and glue seashells onto picture frames when they were 10? Every child needs memories and mementoes, like those.

ADEC, in its mission to proudly advocate for and serve children and adults with developmental and cognitive disabilities, offers summer day camp through its Family Services Division.  This summer, we are serving 32 children, ranging in age from 5 to 20. The group convenes in a classroom at Memorial High School, but then fans out for fun activities. On Tuesday afternoons, they put on swimsuits and head over to McNaughton Spray Park where they cool off on the water slides. On Fridays, they take a field trip.  Destinations have included a farm, a pretzel factory, horseback riding and the fire department.  In between, the children enjoy arts and crafts (but, sadly, no macramé), face painting, and games.

The kids think camp is a lot of fun, and it is, but it’s also much more by providing them with valuable socialization and learning opportunities to bridge the gap between school years.

“We saw a lot of growth in the kids this year,” said Michelle McGuin, director of Family Services.  Some of the children attended summer school classes at Memorial High School in the mornings and then simply walked over to the day camp hall. “It was seamless for the parents having summer school here and camp here,” said McGuin. “It worked out so well.”

Before ADEC began offering camp in 2004, parents of children with physical and intellectual disabilities had few options for summer care.  Their children did not fit into regular day care programs. One mother described the difference.  “When I picked Hannah up at day care, I found her sitting off by herself, watching the other children at play,” she said. “But at ADEC, she’s in the middle of the group, playing with the other children; she’s happy and she’s smiling.”

This year for the first time, ADEC offered transportation to children who live in Goshen, with nine families accepting the offer. Next year, McGuin wants to offer a satellite program in Goshen, so the children do not have to leave their home community.

Summer day camp is just one of the services ADEC provides not covered by Medicaid and other state or federal funding.  We depend on community donations to cover the cost, and the community responds.  A special thank you to the congregation of First United Congregational Church UCC for providing camp scholarships, to the City of Elkhart for providing free or reduced price admission to McNaughton Spray Park and to the administrators of Elkhart Community Schools and Elkhart Memorial High School for the use of school facilities.

Summer camp.  Just one more way the children served by ADEC get to live lives full of choice and possibility.