A year ago, we had to make that tremendously hard decision to suspend our overnight summer camp program. I couldn’t have imagined how that devastating news would set in motion the creation of an entirely new and innovative program that brings such joy to Easter Seal kids.
Much like the polio epidemics in Ontario during the 30s and 40s were influential in the establishment of our first Easter Seals summer camps, the current COVID-10 pandemic has forced us to adapt our programming to meet the ongoing and exasperated needs of children with physical disabilities and their families.
Because of the dedicated commitment of donors like you, devoted volunteers, and our talented camp team, in July 2020 Camp E-aster Seals was launched. Campers came together and experience a remote virtual camp experience as authentic to the spirit of Easter Seals camps as could possibly be imagined, while safely remote and virtual.
Camp E-aster Seals encompasses morning ‘flag pole’, evening campfires, and sing-a-longs, with an array of accessible activities around adventure, arts and crafts, life skills, music and drama, science, sports, and games in between.
Take a look at a note we received from the mother of one of our Camp E-aster Seals campers, sharing the impact of the virtual camp program, funded by generous donors, on her son:
“The pandemic has been hard for all of us, overnight our world changed. Collectively we suffered the loss of routines and daily connections with those in our lives.
For someone like Sam, changes can be difficult on many levels. The ability to simply roll with things is often out of his control.
Sam’s disabilities, special needs, and age all mean that he relies heavily on those around him and COVID-19 forced a dramatic and often negative impact on Sam’s daily life.
Prior to COVID-19, Sam had a small network of peers and limited social opportunities in our area. Being able to get out and be a part of a social group was massively important. Lockdown meant a sudden and complete loss of these vital interactions.
As a parent, I openly worried about how I was going to ensure that Sam was able to maintain connections. How was I going to make sure Sam could still have fun, be a teenager and engage with others?
Without missing a beat, Easter Seals created their virtual camp platform. Virtual camp is a place where Sam can engage, laugh, learn and create. Virtual camp is a fun, inclusive and safe space for Sam to simply be himself, where he is valued for his unique contributions.
Virtual camp has turned loneliness into companionship and devastation over the loss of in-person camp into excitement and all of this achieved while staying safe at home.
Hopefully, somewhere in my words you will find what my heart has to say, you will experience the happiness and relief I have felt through the support of the many Easter Seals programs. Thank you!
I can’t thank you enough for continuing to be the lifeline of Easter Seals. It is because of supporters like you, children have continued to receive much-needed funding for equipment items they have needed desperately, as well as the opportunity to experience the fun and camaraderie of Camp E-aster Seals.”
Despite the sadness so many of us have felt this past year, it is because of caring people like you, that there continues to be light shining through in the darkness.
P.S. See the smiles and hear the laughter for yourself on the internet by visiting the Camp Merrywood facebook page www.facebook.com/merrywoodcamp and our youtube page at www.youtube.com/eastersealsont.