Summer camp for kids with special needs…and those without

Summer camp for kids with special needs…and those without

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee
On-site at Jewish Community Center's Rainbow Camp

A local organization is bringing the traditional camping experience to campers of all ages and abilities.

Keep reading to visit the inclusive camping experience just outside of Milwaukee.

We’re out in Fredonia at the Jewish Community Center’s Albert and Anne Deshur Rainbow Camp.  It’s an inclusive camp for geared toward kids with special needs. 

The staff works here every summer, as it has for decades, to make that experience possible for kids and parents.

“The way we describe it is she is pure joy.  She has no biases against anybody,” said Jenna Hoard, in reference to Allie, the young adult she is a guardian to. 

IMG_7122Nate Imig | 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Camper Allie with her guardian, Jenna Hoard.

Allie has a rare chromosome deletion, and as a result, is nonverbal.

“She’s got right now probably 10 actual words she uses,” Hoard said. “It’s a lot of gesturing and telling me what’s going on.”

But Allie has a place at camp — and in Jenna’s heart.  Even though she not’s Allie’s birth mom, she has been in her life for 20 years, first as a nanny and soon as her primary legal guardian.

“So for 20 years — and lord knows I never thought I’d be here 20 years later — but for 20 years Allie and I have been inseparable,” she said.

All kids have special needs, we all have special needs.

It's just some of them take a little more work than others.

- Lenny Kass, camp director
Kass enjoys a happy moment with a camper.via JCC

Kass enjoys a happy moment with a camper.

Kass says the JCC Rainbow Camp focuses on inclusiveness, both for kids with special needs and without.

A typical day could include art programs, healthy eating, gardening and cooking, swimming, singing and many other traditional camping experiences.  But the programming is flexible, too, allowing special needs campers to focus on activities best suited to their abilities.

RDC 1via JCC

And the overarching focus, Kass says, in instilling a sprit of inclusiveness in campers, regardless of age, faith or ability.

via JCC

Back to Hord — she says, as Allie’s guardian, the camp is filling a critical needs for families of kids with special needs.

“As parents we have have a really hard time finding the right fit for our kids that is meaningful but still fun.”

For more about the JCC camp, which just wrapped up its summer season, visit its official website.