INDIANAPOLIS – Enrollment is now open for a summer camp designed specifically for local kids and teens with disabilities.
Indy Parks says Camp Gather and Camp Gather on the Move has been a safe space and a learning experience for decades.
You’ll find the camps on the near southwest side of Indianapolis. There’s a sensory room inside the Rhodius Park Family Center. It may be empty now, but soon campers will take over.
Camp counselor Matthew Brown can’t wait for summer. He shared with us that he can relate to the kids in a way others can’t.
“One of the things that maybe other counselors don’t have the privilege of saying is, ‘I am on the autism spectrum.’ And so, I can relate to the kids in a way that maybe the other counselors can’t,” said Brown. “I remember there was this one kid who had Asperger‘s and he came in and I like looked at him and said, ‘This is like looking in a mirror. This is like a Matt Brown as a child.’”
Camp Gather and Camp Gather on the Move are both geared towards children and teens with intellectual and physical disabilities.
“A lot of the children that come to this camp need to have consistency, and it’s similar to school. They can get up every morning, they can come here,” said Joenne Pope, the senior manager of Community Programs.
That consistency has led to campers and camp counselors coming back year after year, like 18-year-old Dorin Ferguson. He has Down syndrome and a developmental delay. He shared with us, what he looks forward to.
“We do arts and crafts,” said Ferguson, “We go to the park, go swimming, eat lunch.”
It’s much like a traditional camp. Campers learn life, motor, and communications skills. They play games at the park and take field trips.
Now the camp wants to invite more kids like Ferguson and they’re hiring counselors like Matthew, to make it happen.
“Patience is huge, but enthusiasm and interest, a love of the camp and campers, and just willingness to give it all they have,” explained Pope when asked what qualities they’re looking for in a camp counselor.
And that’s the goal for the campers, too. To give it their all and focus on their ability, not their disability.
Brown added, “I’m very intentional about not letting my autism get the best of me and to the people who laugh at me I tell them to kiss my Asperger’s.”
Matthew shared with us he can juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time and the kids love it at camp.
Indy Parks is enrolling for Camp Gather and Gather on the Move.
To register you can visit IndyParks.org or call 317-327-PARK (7275).
Indy Parks is also hiring several other positions for the summer. If you apply and complete training by May 7, you can earn a $100 sign-on bonus. Click here to apply for a position.