Less than three weeks left of school. The last of the assignments are getting marked. Desks are getting emptied. Field trips and fun days are taking over the hours, and kids are itching to be free from the school’s clutches for the summer. As much as kids can’t wait for summer to officially begin (bet there are a few teachers counting down the minutes too), there are more than a few parents who are stressing over that fact. With children home from school, the beginning of the “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” statements will begin shortly. For those of you who work Monday to Friday, there is also the little matter of not necessarily being able to stay home to tend to your youngsters, even if you wanted to laze the summer away beside the pool. So what do you do? What multitudes of parents have discovered as the best summer sanity saver – summer camp!

North America’s only fully accessible high ropes course

There is a very special summer camp on the western edge of London that not a lot of people know about. It is situated on 106 treed acres, hosts kids aged 8-18 years for 10 days (overnight), has a 1:1 staff to child ratio, and some of the finest state of the art facilities designed especially for the campers. I am talking about the Easter Seals Camp Woodeden and its amazing summer camp for disabled children. With its giant swing (self-released, 70′ high), high ropes course (North America’s only fully accessible course), accessible rock wall, nightly campfires, sledge hockey court, indoor and outdoor basketball, and accessible swimming pool, this camp is any child’s dream. There is also an outdoor amphitheatre, an archery range, an accessible kitchen where campers are encouraged to try their hand at culinary creations, plus a quiet tree house where you can find a little peace and tranquility on the banks of the Thames River.

High-flying fun

Self-Confidence boosting at its best

This camp is the antidote to lots of things for the lucky families who get to use their services. Not only do the children get to be plain old kids in an environment that is specifically designed for them, but their families get the peace of mind of knowing that there is nursing staff on hand, all meals are fully catered, and ultimately they get that time as a much-needed week of respite from a schedule that is often filled with medical appointments, procedures and other interventions. While that is certainly kept in mind and accounted for by the staff and facilities at Camp Woodeden, the bigger focus is on treating the campers as normal children and pushing them to do and be their very best. Their diagnoses of ‘Muscular Dystrophy’, ‘Cerebral Palsy’, ‘Spina Bifida’, or whatever else might define them elsewhere is left at the door, as these kids get to challenge themselves, play and enjoy a week off from everyday life. To say that a stay at Camp Woodeden helps to build these kids’ confidence is an understatement.

Of course summer camp always comes at a cost, and Camp Woodeden is no different. A 10-day stay costs $2000. Easter Seals offers financial assistance to families in need, but they first must have that money to give. Fundraising initiatives throughout the year help to raise money for Easter Seals programs and we have some right here in London. Downtown London hosts the Annual Easter Seals Power Play, which is a huge local help on the fundraising front. This year is the 13th season for it and it will be held on Friday, September 13th, 2013 (13-13-13 spooky or a good luck sign?!). If you are daring, you can also participate in Drop Zone London. Easter Seals takes over One London Place and offers the chance for you to rappel 26 stories down in the name of fund-raising and daredevil-may-care-fun. This year’s Drop Zone is taking place on September 12th, from 8 am – 5 pm.

And as a special treat, this spring they were lucky enough to be picked by the Ontario Commercial Arborists Association (OCAA) for their Annual Day of Service. Four crews of arborists donated a day to do work on the grounds at Camp Woodeden. They cut some trees here, pruned some trees there, and by the end of the day had done enough work to equal the cost of 10-15 children going to camp. Add to that the bonus of having safer buildings, pathways and activity centres, and that sunny day was extraordinary all the way around. Four cheers to the men at Chatham, Arbortech, Norm’s, and CLC Tree Services. That certainly helps the Easter Seals coffers. And in turn will help a few more kids experience the joy of summer camp.

What are your favourite summer camp memories?