All Families Belong Outside with Exceptional Families Family Camp

Last updated: October 22, 2018, at 10:11 a.m. PT

Originally published: September 5, 2018, at 9:25 a.m. PT

Camp is the place for kids to be kids, but for kids with special needs, going to camp can seem impossible. Because of our fundamental belief that all kids deserve to experience the outdoors in a way that meets their needs, the Y created Exceptional Families Camp to serve children with unique accessibility and support needs and their families.

Chelsea Robinson is Wilhelm Robinson’s mother, a child with Autism. Chelsea said, “Being autistic can make traditional camp settings untenable. Not being able to share the happiest part of my own childhood with my son has been hard to accept. It doesn’t mean that I have stopped trying. I’m so glad I went for it and signed up for the Exceptional Families weekend at Camp Orkila.”

At Exceptional Families Camp, we create a space that makes many great activities like arts and crafts, boating, archery, the giant swing, climbing wall and more for families with any special needs so that everyone can enjoy an overnight camp experience together. Each family, if they'd like, will have a Camp Orkila staff person with them to provide support throughout the day.

“The experience was magic from the minute Wilhelm came alive during the campfire festivities.” Chelsea said, “I could tell we were in safe hands in a safe and loving space by the way the camp staff seamlessly included him in their skits.” Exceptional Families helped Wilhelm discover new talents and skills in a safe environment while supportive staff encouraged him to get into what we at camp call, his “Challenge zone.” Chelsea reflected on the weekend, she said, “Normally we aren’t met with love and acceptance, but, rather mere tolerance and sometimes annoyance. It was so beautiful to witness!”

The next Exceptional Families Family Camp will take place October 12-14 at Camp Orkila. Registration ends September 29th.