By Sherri Coner
For teens with autism, summer camp is not only about swimming, crafting and team building,
it is also about practicing social skills, gaining confidence by trying new activities in safe environments and of course, making friends.
This is the first plan ever for an all-day, three-week camp experience, said Kelli Higgins, executive director for Autism Community Connection in Greenwood.
In 2021, every Saturday in June was set aside for fun day camp activities.
Last year, campers participated every Tuesday and Thursday in June.
This year is an exciting first-time opportunity for campers between 13 and 19 years of age to participate in what staff call My Summer Journey.
However, craft and learning materials costs have significantly increased along with additional wages for extra staff and the fact that giving teens a day camp experience for five days weekly and three weeks in the month of June naturally increased camp fees.
During the month of April, fundraising will be the primary focus with a strong hope that no camper will be left out because of money.
“We are a very small nonprofit organization,” said Higgins. “Summer camp helps with that transition back to school. And parents can know their child will experience quality programming.”
According to CDC statistics, one in 36 American children will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Through the years, more and more families have looked for ways to network with other families.
When families with autistic children launched Johnson County Autism Support Group in 2005, they stayed committed to helping each other. A couple of years ago, board members and families too decided to do some rebranding, so families outside of Johnson County – especially those with no family support in their home county – would feel welcome to participate, Higgins said.
A donation of $150 sends a teen to one week of My Summer Journey.
A donation of $450 sends a teen to all 15 days of fun, from swimming, bowling and horseback riding to putt-putt, cooking and science experiments.
Higgins and her staff are working with Access Johnson County to provide transportation.
“We are very thankful to Access,” Huggins said. “It is a big undertaking, but Johnson County desperately needs these things.”
Along with Pampered Chef consultant, Sandra Pool, donating some proceeds from any April 28 orders, anyone dining between 4 and 6 p.m. April 11 at Chick-fil-A on State Road 135 in Greenwood will also help the cause since proceeds in that time frame will be donated to My Summer Journey, to at least defray camp costs for families.
“The kids really look forward to camp,” Higgins said. “They thrive and they absolutely love it.”
To donate or to learn more about the overall program, events and summer camp, visit autismcc-in.org.