Special camp makes big impact

For college students, the phrase “spring break” can bring to mind a week on the beach with friends, but not all of those attending North Texas University elect to spend their week in a typical fashion.

One group of 17 UNT students recently spent their spring break at Camp Summit in Argyle working with campers of all ages and disabilities.

They were up at 7 a.m. each day to help the campers get dressed and ready to play, laugh, and enjoy some unique camp experiences such as a ropes course and a talent show. They pushed wheelchairs, brushed teeth, and allowed the campers a chance to make their own Spring Break memories.

Carla Weiland, Camp Summit’s Chief Executive Officer, said campers who ranged in age from 6 to 56, as well as a total of 35 volunteer counselors, developed friendships, shared in fun activities and left with memories to treasure.

“People are no different because of a disability,” said Weiland, whose parents are visually impaired.

If you happened to be at camp that week, you would have seen the group fishing, riding horses, making arts and crafts and even enjoying a special dance where those in wheelchairs moved with abandon along with those able to dance on their feet.

Camp Director Lisa Braziel said it was a wonderful week, and the counselors did a great job.

“We saw so many smiles on the faces of the campers. It was tremendous,” she said, adding that some parents and volunteers alike wrote thank you notes to the Camp Summit staff.  Braziel read from one parent note. “The camp volunteers really make the experience. Their positive attitude and enthusiasm carries over to the campers, making the experience truly exceptional.”

And, just as parents were grateful that their disabled sons and daughters were able to go to camp for a week, it seemed the volunteers were just as grateful. “All of the campers inspired me to do better and be better,” read one note from a college student who spent the week at Summit.  “The joy in their eyes is something I will never forget and it made me look at the person for who they are, not what they are.”

Not only are the volunteers unique in their selflessness, but the camp itself is a rarity; it is the only camp in the area and one of just a few in the United States offering programs to campers without regard to the severity of their disability, providing on-site medical personnel to a wide age range of campers, and also helping families with financial assistance through a sliding scale fee structure and a camp scholarship program.

Besides the Spring Break week, Camp Summit offers week-long camp sessions during the summer and fall, as well as weekend sessions and respite days in the fall and spring seasons.

This year Camp Summit’s camping program will benefit nearly 2,000 children and adults with developmental delays, physical, or sensory impaired disabilities that come in search of a traditional camping experience.

Although some local residents may not even know about the camp on Copper Canyon Road next to Lantana, this upcoming summer season will complete 64 memorable years of camping at Camp Summit.  

Camp Summit will host their 17th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament on May 2 at Bear Creek Golf Club near DFW Airport. The 2011 honorary chair is Christi Livingston, who has been a Camp Summit camper for 30 years.

The tournament will include a silent auction, contests holes, a boxed lunch donated by Chick-fil-A, and an awards buffet dinner.  Sponsors and teams can register online at: www.campsummit.golf.dojiggy.com.

Organizers hope to have more than 250 golfers participate and raise $100,000 for this special camp. 

For more information about Camp Summit and the schedule of camping sessions, visit www.campsummittx.org or call 972-484-8900.

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