There is something that is a regular occurrence at Camp Winfield, one of three Easter Seals camps for disabled children run by the B.C. Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.
As parents drop their kid off at Camp Winfield the children dissolve into tears, not wanting to let go of the warmth and security of the parental unit.
A week later, after the child has spent time with camp counsellors and friends, has taken part in activities and bonded with peers, the parents come back and so do the tears, as the child doesn’t want to leave Camp Winfield.
Such is the way things go at Camp Winfield, where up to 35 camp counsellors and a multitude of volunteers host hundreds of children each summer in a variety of week-long camps.
“Having a disabled child takes 24-7 care,” explained Rick Harker, manager of Easter Seals Camp Winfield. “Quite often it’s mom and dad who have to sleep with one eye open. When the child comes to camp they get one week of respite. It’s a good break for the parents and the child gets away from TV, gets away from routine and from all the activities they are forced to do.”
While at Camp Winfield, children are pushed to explore new boundaries all the while with camp counsellors close at hand. Usually there is one counsellor for every two children as they take part in activities like canoeing, rock climbing, swimming and arts and crafts.
But last weekend Camp Winfield did things a little differently. For the first time ever parents and siblings of the disabled children were invited to take part in Camp Winfield, spending the weekend with their family at the camp and experiencing the things that take place together with their disabled child.
Harker said it’s a way of bonding for the families and something that is different than their day-to-day lives.
“What happens is a lot of the children that we host have siblings that aren’t disabled,” he said. “They come with their brother or sister to drop them off and they see the camp and they think they’d like to be here too. Because there was an interest from the parents wanting to know what the camp is all about this will help them rest at ease so they can see where the kids sleep and what activities they do.”
The first ever family weekend at Camp Winfield featured eight families for a winter camping weekend. Activities planned included arts and crafts, games and anything else that the weather allowed. Most importantly, families of disabled children were able to get an idea about the camp and its benefits for their kids.
“Now siblings and families can witness and see what their brothers and sisters are doing,” said Harker. “It’s a very positive thing.”
Camp Winfield is one of three Easter Seals camps in B.C. with the others located in Squamish and Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. Winfield’s camp is located on 32 acres of land near the town and, for the past 30 years, has hosted five camps each summer.
You can find out more online at www.lionsbc.ca, click on programs and then camps.