Who Are They?
The mission of Camp Encourage is to "encourage social growth, independence, and self-esteem in youth with autism spectrum disorders through a quality, overnight camp experience located in the greater Kansas City area."
The camp was founded in 2007, and the campers are chosen through a lottery system because the number of kids who want to attend far exceed the camp's capacity. In 2011 the camper waiting list grew to 100 children, so in 2012 Camp Encourage did two camp sessions instead of one, allowing them to serve twice as many kids. They are currently looking into further expansion possibilities, as the number of children needing this important service continues to grow. Want to know more about Camp Encourage? Visit them here!
My Personal Experience:
Last summer I had an incredible opportunity to volunteer as a cabin leader at Camp Encourage and had an AMAZING experience! Camp Encourage is a summer camp outside Kansas City, MO that is specially designed to provide opportunities for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to socialize and practice independence safely (and it gives their parents a break too!). The camp is set up with a rotation schedule that I found very clever because several different activities are happening at the same time (that way, a camper has multiple activities to choose from). The kids are given opportunities to participate in archery, swimming, ziplining, or various crafts but they don't HAVE to -- if they don't like any of the offered activities they can play card games (including collector games as long as they bring their own cards), play ping pong, work with Lego's, read/play with their handheld games/etc. in the cabin, or play with beans or other tactile mediums in the quiet room. The volunteers at the camp are wonderful and incredibly dedicated to making the camp happen and making every camper's experience the absolute best it can be! Many of them have children with autism (or work with them), so they are very empathetic and patient with even difficult kids. I really hope to return and volunteer again!
Camp Encourage is in the running to receive a $1,000 donation from Blue Springs Ford this month -- there are only 2 more days before the winner is decided! $1,000 would go a long way toward helping the camp expand their programs to reach even more kids with autism spectrum disorders! All you have to do is visit this website and "Like" Camp Encourage -- on the 28th, the winner will be the organization with the most "Likes." Please, please, please vote! It only takes a second and there's no survey, no registration, no hoops of any kind! Just an opportunity to help an incredible organization!