It’s summer and that means it’s time for camp. I’m old enough to remember when there was camp, just plain old summer camp. Now it’s amazing the number of special camps there are: sports camps, space camps, science camps and the one that gives me shivers, math camps.
The one that warms my heart, however, is the June 15 Family Fun Day Camp held at the YMCA Camp Hyde near Viola. It’s for special needs kids and their families.
Crystal and Travis Hinnen told me about it, and the more I learned, the more I knew it was a very good event. The Hinnens have an autistic, bi-polar son, Dillon, 13, who doesn’t speak but was obviously thrilled when he went in a canoe for the first time at last year’s Fun Day. “We thought we might tip over, but we didn’t, so I took a picture. I had to document that moment.” Crystal said.
The day that offers many activities such as horseback riding, laser tag, swimming and art, to mention a few, is open to kids who would not normally get to go to camp. “We know how hard it is to take your special needs kids anywhere, not just the restrictions, the meltdowns and so on,” Crystal said.
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More than 200 people attended the one-day camp last year. One of them was Laniese Penner, 12, of Newton, who has juvenile arthritis.
“It was a lot of fun. The swimming pool was my favorite, and I got to ride a horse and I never got to ride a horse before. I hope I get to do that again,” Laniese said.
“I really liked the whole day because it was fun to be with the kids who don’t usually get to go to camp,” she added.
“We had kids with cystic fibrosis, cancer kids, kids with arthritis, kids in wheelchairs – all special needs kids and their families are very, very welcome to come and take part in all the activities,” Crystal said.
Organizers knew they had hit a home run when parents came up to them and said they had seen their child smile for the first time. “It was also great to see siblings of special needs kids get together. They had a common bond too,” Crystal said. The Hinnens have a daughter, Chloe, 14, who says she had a blast at Family Fun Day.
More good news, the Fun Day is free of charge, thanks to a lot of wonderful sponsors and volunteers and Dilly’s Place. You don’t have to register or make a reservation.
Dilly’s Place is a nonprofit organization with the goal of developing a no-boundaries playground in Conway Springs.
“Sumner County doesn’t have a playground where special needs kids can be active,” Crystal said.
The land has been donated and they have half the needed $300,000 raised. The Dilly’s Place volunteers are determined to make this happen, and talking to some of them, I have no doubt they’ll get it finished. You can check them out on Facebook or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The mailing address is P.O. Box 633, Conway Springs, KS 67031.
In the meantime, if you have a special needs kids, or if you want to volunteer with me, head to Family Fun Day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 15, presented by Dilly’s Place at YMCA Camp Hyde, 26201 W. 71st St. South in Viola. It will be a great day to make some memories at camp.