March of Dimes Canada has been offering summer camp trips to adults with physical disabilities for many years and decades. These camps do not only provide accessible activities for participants but 24-hour caregiving services with assistive devices; thus allowing for complete independence for participants and respite for the participants’ home caregivers and family. The camps are located in Orillia, Ontario; Halifax, Nova Scotia and Vancouver, British Columbia. I personally have been to two of these camps which I will try to describe below although that description cannot fully compare to the fun, excitement and independence experienced by the camper.
Camp life offers an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors in natural settings in various ways and to socialize with fellow campers and locals; the March of Dimes camp in Orillia, specifically located at the Geneva Park centre does just that. Upon arriving at Geneva Park you and your counsellors set up a weekly schedule of day to day activities accommodated to your abilities. Such activities range from arts and crafts like making wrist bracelets, hiking through the forest, excursions to places like ice cream shops, barns and zoos in nearby Barrie; and water activities ranging from swimming in Lake Couchiching using a ramp and lift to kayaking and canoeing with adapted boats and oars and/or an assistant.
Room and dining accommodations are offered at Geneva Park which is like a one-floor hotel with complete wheelchair accessible rooms, bathrooms and extra toiletry supplies specific to your disability needs. In fact, during my second trip to Geneva Park, I learned about “blue” pads which are light and thin to cover a wheelchair cushion or a mattress for protection from spills, leaks and dirt. I have been purchasing them ever since.
At every campsite, the camp counsellors not only help you during various camping activities and excursions, but they also help with daily personal care activities like bathing, grooming, feeding, etc. I had brought my own attendant to Camp Brigadoon in Nova Scotia but even she was offered periodic breaks with her personal care duties with me.
The housing accommodations offered at Camp Brigadoon were smaller than at the Geneva Park camp; however, they were equipped with different types of adaptive equipment like lifts and commodes. Meals were offered in their great dining room area but of course, we also enjoyed roasting marshmallows on a fire pit outside.
Camp Brigadoon is located in the outskirts of Halifax in a forest with tall leafy trees and plants, big rock boulders, a large lake (Lake Alysford) in Fancy Cove, surrounded by beautifully singing birds and even your occasional bunny rabbit. It is a perfect place for hiking, building bonfires, water activities like fishing and boating and so much more; not to mention taking pictures and watching a breathtaking sunset.
The camp also offers excursions beyond Brigadoon to places, such as the Halifax Harbourfront, the Canadian Museum of Immigration and Pier 21, and Peggy’s Cove. The Harbourfront contains interesting and popular shops and restaurants at the Farmer’s Market and is well known for its Immigration Museum celebrating Canadian multiculturalism and the descent of one million post World War II immigrants off of Pier 21. Peggy’s Cove, further away from the Harbourfront, is picturesque with houses built along an inlet facing the Atlantic Ocean and its waves and boulders.
March of Dimes summer camps offers an extraordinary opportunity to adults with physical disabilities for fun and relaxation in different areas of the country; living away from the hectic city life and instead of living in nature. It is an opportunity to socialize and build friendships with fellow campers, counsellors and locals. Moreover, it is an opportunity for independence for people with disabilities vacationing in the summer. I can’t wait until the Vancouver summer camp program starts up again!
Summer camp applications begin in February. For more information contact Keith Rashid at March of Dimes Recreation Services at 416-425-3463 ext. 7213 or 1-800-263-3463 ext. 7213; [email protected]