By Kit McCluskey, BlazeCamp Leader
BlazeCamp was held at the traditional location of Camp Dream at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute in Warm Springs, GA from May 278th – June 1st. The camp saw great success this year bringing in 30 participants with physical disabilities from around the country and 12 international campers from Haiti. The purpose of the camp is to give children with physical disabilities the opportunity to meet new friends, build confidence, develop independence, and try new things and in this year’s case learn about a new culture.
For a majority of the campers, this was their first time away from their parents and they didn’t know what to expect. With the help from the leaders, it didn’t take long for the kids to feel comfortable and immediately start playing while making new friends. Many of the staff have been campers themselves so they know what it is like. Christina Young, one of the leaders said, “I first came to BlazeCamp when I was 8 years old. I keep coming back as a leader because I want to help the campers have the same positive experience I had.” James Adams and Bryan Powell feel the same positive impact and attributed BlazeCamp to the reason they became involved in wheelchair sports.
During the 5 day camp each camper had the chance to participate in a variety of activities including archery, fishing, soccer, bowling in addition to many others. Camper Rachel Barnett’s favorite part of the week was reaching the top of the climbing wall. It was the first time she has ever done something like that and she was able to work on her fear of heights.
Another favorite part of the week was swimming. Campers were able to conquer their fear of water with the help of Coach Fred and staff teaching them how to swim. Seeing their success, proved to each camper how much potential they do have and nothing is holding them back from doing what they want to achieve.
A new element of the week was the culture exchange between the Americans and the Haitians. A few of the nights, while making s’mores by the campfire, the Haitian leaders taught everyone games commonly played by kids in their country. Even with the language barrier, it was easy to interact with one another because sports and having fun is all universal.
On the last night, the campers and leaders dressed up in their cowboy hats, overalls and bandanas and had a Hoedown party. The evening was filled with dancing, music and fun. To end the week, the campers split up into teams representing different countries for a mini Paralympic Games. Afterwards, there was a BBQ where the kids were able to share their favorite memories of the week with their families.
BlazeSports would like to thank all the campers and staff who came out to make for a wonderful week. We’d also like to thank our sponsors the Kyle Pease Foundation, U.S. Department of State – SportsUnited, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Resurgens Charitable Foundation. Without their generosity camp would not have been the same.