A month ago I got to visit Camp Attitude, a summer camp for physically challenged children and their families on the Santiam Highway just past Foster Lake.
My favorite part of Camp Attitude was the paved trails through lush native Oregon forest. I didn’t take any pictures I was so engrossed with the beauty and diversity of plant life that was accessible to everyone at camp, and the air on those trails was so fresh!
Also at Camp Attitude there is fishing, a petting zoo, a talent show night, horse back riding, (they have one of the horses from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman! I was a huge fan.), swing sets for everyone, river floating, campfire circle, and more.
I was visiting Camp Attitude with a number of design and camp consultants to discuss with the board members their long term master plan for camp. They haven’t yet had a master plan for camp and it shows. There are a number of lovely spots on camp and some great activities available, but the overall layout is a bit unorganized and they have a serious challenge with their sense of arrival. That’s why we were all there. That and they are looking to build a dining hall, which they currently are lacking, as well as a salt water swimming pool.
Dreaming of Salt Water Swimming Pools
Why a salt water swimming pool you ask? Camp Attitude knows how to dream big. Swimming in a salt water pool allows you to float much more easily, the salt content of the water increases your buoyancy, this is especially helpful for a physically challenged child. What’s more, swimming is a fantastically freeing experience for those who spend significant amounts of time in wheel chairs. Camp Attitude’s dream saltwater swimming pool also includes the facilities that make accessing a pool via wheel chair very easy.
The thing is, salt water swimming pools are great for everyone, not just kids with seemingly limited physical abilities. The whole family feels a bit lighter swimming in a saltwater swimming pool. (I haven’t even mentioned the reduced exposure to traditional pool water chemicals.)
That is really what Camp Attitude is about, creating space for the whole family to feel a bit lighter. Friends and memories are made at camp. Moms get to support each other, Fathers meet and exchange stories, brothers and sisters who often feel forgotten, find understanding with other siblings, and children who so often feel alone and singled out for their physical limitations meet other children with varying degrees of physical challenges and learn together how much life they are capable of living.
Everyone is reminded that they are only as limited as they allow themselves to think they are.
Camp Attitude is free.
Yup, that’s right, for the entire family, Camp Attitude is free. There are no paid staff at Camp Attitude either. It is all volunteer run. In fact, the volunteers pay to come to camp. There are cooks, organizers, office staff, and family buddies. All volunteers.
Here’s how it works
Families who already spend a lot of money on the health and well being of their family get a free week at camp. This is huge because often paying for vacation and planning a vacation that takes into account the physical challenges of a child can be a huge hassle and expense and not very relaxing for anyone. So vacation at Camp Attitude is free. There are things for everyone in the family to enjoy regardless of ability or age. The whole family meets new people, makes new friends, sees the world through fresh eyes, and enjoys the scenery and natural features of camp. Everyone gets a vacation.
The whole family goes home rested and rejuvenated, buoyed so to speak. They tell Grandma and Grandpa, they tell aunts and uncles. They tell people at church and the neighbor down the street. And then all those people in their community realize what a gift a week at Camp Attitude is for their loved ones and quickly become Camp Attitude fans, often volunteering their time or money to show support.
Camp Attitude clearly has a vision, getting that down on paper in an illustrated master plan will allow them to begin writing grants and sharing their story with organizations eager to support camps with the clarity of purpose and mission like theirs.
If you want more of the Camp Attitude story and details here’s the Camp Attitude website.