A gap in services for children with disabilities has led to a unique summer camp experience for nearly 60 local youth.
Next week, children with disabilities, their siblings and volunteers with Exceptional Stars Athletics will spend two days at YMCA Camp Onyahsa during its second annual Kids and Sibs Summer Camp. A grant from the Community Foundation’s Fund for the Region supports the event.
According to Laurie Reynolds, Prevention Works Associate Director/Director of Program Services, this camp experience was created as a result of concerns from the CHQ Support Group for Parents/Caregivers of Children with Special Needs that have been studying gaps in services for children with disabilities, especially as it relates to child care during the summer months.
“Growing up is challenging for everyone but is uniquely so for siblings of children with disabilities who often feel like there are competing for their parents’ attention,” said Reynolds. “Oftentimes these feelings lead to frustration and loneliness and the need to connect with other children who understand.”
As part of the camp experience, siblings of children with disabilities participate in workshops to discuss feelings, coping strategies and are able to connect with other siblings to build a sense of fellowship amongst them.
With the support of peer volunteers, camp staff and community supporters, all campers will be able to participate in many camp experiences including fishing, boating, karate, arts and crafts, swimming, drum circles and more.
“Since last year, the committee has been working with Camp Onyahsa to strategize new ways for the camp experience to be all inclusive and to meet the special needs of individuals,” Reynolds said.
Kids and Sibs Summer Camp is a collaboration among several community agencies including: Prevention Works, HOPE Chautauqua, The Resource Center, Parent Network of WNY, Jamestown Public Schools, Children’s Collaborative Solutions and Camp Onyahsa.