Camp Riley: Special needs answered

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15-year-old Blake Gipson enjoys Camp Riley. (Submitted photo)

15-year-old Blake Gipson enjoys Camp Riley. (Submitted photo)

By Chris Bavender

Camp is always a great way to meet new friends, try new adventures and come home with a lifetime of memories. And, for kids who attend Camp Riley – it’s no different.

Founded 59 years ago, Camp Riley is a chance for children ages 8 to 18 with physical disabilities to discover new opportunities and become “empowered to do new things.”

“It’s just wonderful for these kids who meet kids going through similar obstacles that they are,” said Jason Mueller, Director of regional communications for the Riley Foundation, which supports the camp. “They can talk amongst themselves, share stories, laugh, have fun and not feel they are being watched by others. They can feel natural and be a normal kid – these kids bond.”

This summer, 17 Carmel youth have had the chance to attend Camp Riley. Annually 220 campers from 60 Indiana counties and 10 states enjoy time at the camp during five sessions over the course of six summer weeks.

“Many look forward to the 40-foot climbing tower or cardiac hill – a very steep hill for absolutely anyone who tries to tackle it – it has the name cardiac hill for a reason,” Mueller said. “They also can swim, try archery, arts and crafts and baking – just a wide variety of activities for all children and interest levels.”

The majority of the campers are patients at Riley Hospital for Children. Medical staff – including nursing directors and pharmacists – are available to make sure the kids receive the attention they need on a day to day basis.

“It’s like an extension of Riley Hospital in the sense that medical care provided is provided 24 hours a day which gives peace of mind for parents who are letting their kids go away from home for one or two week sessions,” Mueller said. “It’s a big step for many.”

No child is turned away because of a family’s financial situation, Mueller said. A sliding scale is available with additional donor support from the foundation and donors.

It’s a way to ensure any kid who can attend – is able to.

“I was with a couple of them this past weekend – they’d done camp together few years and now they do wheelchair basketball ball,” Mueller said. “It’s where friendships begin and where they continue – campers look forward to going back each summer.”

To donate and help a child attend camp, visit www.rileykids.org.

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