Monday, June 23, 2014

A Week At Camp Barnabas

While Gess has been to church camp in the past, I have had always had to go as her counselor.  There are also always some activities she can't do well, or competitions she can't compete in equally, or just some times she can't keep up and needs to rest. This year we did something different.  For the first time Gess went to camp without me.  For the first time my husband and I had an entire week to ourselves. For the first time I was able to leave Gess and not have to worry about how she would handle things or how those watching her would handle her.  For the first time Gess went to Camp Barnabas.

Camp Barnabas is a camp geared specifically for special needs children.  They have camps for ages 7 to adults for every challenge your special one might face such as intellectual, physical, developmental, chronic illness, and more.  Campers are assigned their own counselor who follows them throughout the entire camp experience. They sleep in the cabin with them and help them do whatever needs to be done. From eating and showering to the fun stuff like swimming and canoeing, these volunteers are there specifically for your child.

The one to one counselor ratio was the biggest reason I knew I could send Gess and not worry. At a typical camp where a counselor has several girls it is easy for Gess to get lost or run off on her own without being noticed. It is also difficult if she has needs that the others do not. The counselors are not always free to leave the other girls and help Gess through her situation. Therefore, knowing that someone was there looking out for Gess was extremely important to me.

They also allow siblings to come along and it is a great time for them to meet other kids who really know what it is like to have a sibling with special needs.  This also gives parents one week a year where they can have some time off with the comfort of knowing that all their children are well cared for, happy, and having the time of their life.  A worry free week of relaxation is something most parents of children who have special needs seldom ever get!  We certainly do not!

I was also thrilled that this was a Christian camp.  Most of the teen volunteers are CIA's which are Christians in Action that come from all over the country to serve.  They have bible devotions and songs that emphasize biblical principles.  This is important to us as parents but also to Gess who loves to praise and worship God. In fact, she received a J.E.F.F award while she was there!  J.E.F.F. stands for Joy, Enthusiasm, Fun, and Fellowship.  Her award was for being the most prayerful!

While I was excited and ready for Gess to go to Camp Barnabas, I was blown away by just how amazing it is. It is not only nice and large structurally, it is very well organized.  They take this very seriously and do this out of honor for our kids and for God. They truly feel as if this is a ministry that is a calling from God, not just some fun camp to run. The love and respect we received from everyone there was absolutely amazing!  I can't thank them enough!  If you have a loved one with special needs you will want to consider sending them to Camp Barnabas.  This is something I hope Gess will do every year for the rest of her life.  Here, your loved one gets to do and try everything and for once, feel as if they belong.  Instead of having to adapt to the activities they participate in, the activities are adapted to them!  How cool is that!?  To learn more about them, check out this video.

Here are a few photos of Gess' week at camp.  These are limited because I wasn't there!  I was at home enjoying two hour bike rides, steak dinners, and peace and quiet with my husband!  For the first time I could relax knowing that my daughter was perfectly happy and safe at Camp Barnabas!

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