Happy Campers

July 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

Houston charity gives special needs children the opportunity to experience the adventures of summer camp

Anyone who has attended summer camp knows that it can be one of the most exciting and enriching experiences during childhood. Unfortunately, hiking, swimming, camping, canoeing and climbing are not activities that all children can enjoy — especially those facing disabling conditions, such as disease, delayed development, or hearing and sight impairments.

In 1993, Dr. Bob Zeller and Dr. Paul Gerson, two physicians from Houston who had cared for disabled children for many years, collaborated with a parent who had lost his child to cancer to create the June Rusche Hamrah Camp For All Foundation. The founders of Camp For All envisioned the creation of a summer campsite that would accommodate all types of children and adults, and their extensive array of special needs. The trio joined forces with 19 health organizations that had been operating separate special needs camps — and developed one dream camp for everyone to enjoy.

The campsite
The organization purchased property in Burton, Texas, in 1996 and welcomed its first group of campers to the 206-acre campsite in 1998. Today, more than 6,000 people attend the camp each year from more than 70 different special needs groups. The impressive campsite in Washington County boasts more than 100,000 square feet of facilities, including a gymnasium, an arts and crafts center, a nondenominational chapel, an equestrian center, nature trails and two lakes, as well as abundant room for campers to enjoy outdoor activities. With 18 cabins that can accommodate 250 campers, the campsite also offers a health center that includes treatment rooms, semi-private bedrooms for volunteer medical staff, an education den and medical support areas. Additionally, the campsite’s buildings are linked together by wide, concrete walkways that make it possible for campers in wheelchairs to easily move to and from the different locations.

Camp programs
Each week-long summer camp here is specifically designed to meet the needs of the children attending that particular session. Camp For All’s certified staff works in partnership with each special needs organization to create an individualized program, fitting each group’s physical skill level, mental capability, mobility requirements and age range. With an extensive array of suitable activities, campers can enjoy aquatics, archery, arts and crafts, biking, ropes courses, equestrian programs, fine arts, nature trails, a small animal farm and team sports, as well as fishing and canoeing on the lake. Camp For All is also home to an impressive tree house that can accommodate up to 10 campers in wheelchairs.

Who attends
Camp For All works in partnership with more than 70 Texas special needs organizations. The program welcomes children and adults who are suffering from a wide range of conditions such as asthma, burns, cancer, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, epilepsy, hearing and sight impairments, HIV, kidney disease, and muscular dystrophy. In addition to the organization’s week-long programs in the summer, Camp For All hosts many day and weekend retreats for special needs children and adults in the spring and fall.

Make a difference
Each week-long session at the campsite in Burton costs $500 per camper. Camp For All sponsors $250 of this cost, and visiting special needs organizations cover the other half. Each organization attending the camp brings its own campers and provides a volunteer staff, counselors and medical team, if needed. Funding to maintain the camp, its staff and activities are generously donated by individuals, foundations, corporations and civic and religious organizations. Camp For All offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for different groups, age ranges and interests. Camp For All Friends, the original volunteer organization; Young Professionals, composed of young women and men; and Helping Hands, a group for teen volunteers; each work together to make Camp For All’s events possible for special needs children throughout Houston and the state of Texas.

Camp For All
10500 U.S. 290, Ste. 220
(713) 686-5666


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