<In the woods of the Black Hills, off of Paha Sapa Road is a place where Camp Friendship resides….a place where people with disabilities come for fun, to be loved, and to have the experiences of an extraordinary life.
Alex Schnell, camp assistant, says,"My little sister is actually a camper, she has developmental disabilities.....I think it's important for campers to have a normal experience, when they come to camp they get to do all the same things that kids that go to summer camp get to do, but it fits with them better. They get to do fun things..."
Camp Friendship, is in it’s 39th year. It caters to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. Campers do all the activities you would expect at a summer camp, like swimming, arts and crafts, campfires and cookouts, fishing, a finale dance, and … a chance to make life-long friends.
Kati Seymour, 3rd year Camp Helper, says " Here, it's all about the relationships and it's all about making sure the friendships that are started here, carry on 365 days a year, 7 days a week, so for me it's all about the friendships and seeing the bonds develop between the people the people that help and the people that participating in the activities."
The camp is run by an all volunteer staff that provides one-on-one care and assistance for each camper as well as creating all of the program activities.
Kati: "I would say its like a family, they are here to support and help you in any way that they can, but they are also here to give you constructive criticism and help you to be the best person that you can be."
It started with humble beginnings of a local girl scout dream, and now serves over 90 campers, and over 150 volunteers and their families each summer. With her 23 years of involvement Stacie Kellogg continues to see the impact this organization has on its campers.
Stacie Kellogg, Camp Friendship Director, says, "My passion for Camp Friendship started with my sister, I have a sister with disabilities, and that is how I got started. But I just love working with people with disabilities and seeing the enjoyment that they have when they come to camp, their face lights up, they love all of the activities that we do, and just to be able to put a smile on somebody's face is amazing. "
Campers and volunteers alike, have many reasons to love this special camp.
Alex: "...just when you get to see a camper really have fun, and really, they have a smile on their face all day, it's a lot of fun....I had a buddy my first year and he never smiles and he never did anything and always looked like he was grumpy ... towards the end he finally started to come out of his shell, started smiling and laughing and interacting with people. It was a lot of fun to see that really nice to see them have fun and be normal."
Stacie: "My favorite part about camp, is just when we go out in the community after camp and anytime you are wearing your camp friendship shirt and one of our campers sees us out in the community they get a huge smile on their face and run up to us a give us a big hug and all they can talk about it how they are ready for camp for next year and even if it is in September, and it's only been a month since camp , they are ready to go back...that’s my favorite thing."
Kati: "Camp Friendship is a place where its not about the disabilities, but its about the abilities that we each have to bring out the best in humanity."
Don't forget to check out the links to the Camp Friendship website and facebook under links on this page.