When parents hear the word “camp,” it may bring back memories of late night campfires, making s’mores, and rope swings landing in the lake. But what if your child has a special need? Will she get to experience the fun and friendships you experienced at overnight camp as a kid?
The answer is yes! Rylee Rogers, a sixth-grader at Westdale Middle School, has been going to Camp Dream Street, a camp for children with physical disabilities, since 2014. She was born with Spina Bifida and has Cerebral Palsy, requiring her to use a wheelchair.
Rylee loves socializing with new people, reading, and playing wheelchair tennis. She is also a cheerleader and manager for her school’s cheerleading team and has taken an interest in Spanish. She has taught herself the language by watching Spanish speaking television shows and can now hold conversations in Spanish.
For a girl who has a passion for sports and a wide variety of talents, Camp Dream Street is perfect. Campers’ days are filled from morning to night with activities specifically tailored to their interests and needs. Rylee can experience all of the unique events because she is able to stay several nights in a cabin with her camp peers. Her physical limitations do not hinder her from enjoying a day in the life of summer camp.
“It is everything you would imagine a summer camp to be,” Rylee’s mother, Sissy, exclaims. “In addition to all the things you would expect, it also has what we have not found anywhere else. They have a fully-trained staff of volunteers that are licensed and trained to handle all of Rylee’s medical needs.”
Because of those medical needs, Rylee cannot be away from a caregiver for more than a few hours at a time. Camp Dream Street allows her to enjoy the fun of being a kid without her parents having to worry about whether she is getting the extra care she needs.
“We were so excited for her to have a place to go where she could have fun, make new friends, and gain a sense of independence by not having her parents looking over her shoulder,” Sissy says. The camp has allowed Rylee to grow in many ways. She has gained a sense of self, independence, and confidence through the program.
Sissy acknowledges how difficult it can be to let go of routine and control but that doing so can lead to your child being able to experience new things and make his or her own camp memories. She says, “Trust that your Dream Street camper will be very well cared for and will have a wonderful time at camp.”
Rylee plans to attend Camp Dream Street again this summer and is looking forward to meeting new friends and participating in the camp talent show. ■