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Recently I drove down the road to Komoka to see a special summer camp for young people with physical disabilities Woodeden Easter Seals Camp is 106 beautiful acres of trees and gardens. A pair of swans at the front gate welcomes you to the property.

The road sign welcomes the visitor: “Future world leaders at play-please drive slowly.”

The Camp Director, offered to be my guide and show me around. The camp has accommodations for 60 children age eight to eighteen with special needs.

The staff of 45 are hired for the summer to help the campers enjoy 10 days in the country. Three nurses are on site to provide care for those in need.

Off we went to see the children playing water polo in the heated pool. Counsellors provided a helping hand to the campers wearing life jackets pass the ball and score. Everyone had a turn and the laughter and hi fives showed that the kids were having a great time.

There are lots of outdoor sporting activities, bowling, archery, volleyball and the best of all sledge hockey.
Some of the campers had chosen to take part in “It’s Jeopardy”: a team challenge to answer trivia questions. They were oh so smart. They beat me every time.

Off we went to take in the creme de le creme of challenges: a rope course set 30 feet into the air. It was wonderful to watch the youngsters bravely being lifted aloft with shouts of encouragement from their cabin mates. Lisa and Karli made it look easy. The staff talked them through the trials with plenty of “you can do it” and of course they did. The rope course raison d’etre was to develop in the campers self confidence and a sense of empowerment.

For those with artistic talents there is a pottery course and arts and crafts. The baking elective uses up copious amounts of chocolate to the delight of the majority of campers with a sweet tooth.

The Tree House provides a quiet place for 8-11 year old buddies to eat a snack and hang out and share their feelings.

Every night at 7.30 the campers make their to a camp fire where the youngsters partake of skits and sing along. There are tents and sleeping bags for adventure overnighters with the counsellors.

At the end of the ten days there is a banquet to celebrate the successes of each camper with certificates of achievement. Cory emphasised: “the purpose of the camp is to focus on experience; it is different for every child”. The dining hall is filled with lots of laughter and tears from both campers and counsellors.

To remember it all the campers take home their daily journal entries of their special ten days to share with their folks.

We in Ontario owe a debt of gratitude to the Easter Seals Society that provides for the handicapped youngsters. Like the majority of their peers they too want to have a chance to go camping.

The banner outside the recreational hall said it all: “Creating solutions/changing lives.” Maybe, that is what learning is all about? The campers’ determination and cheerful disposition is a great lesson for us all.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com