Blake is an Easter Seals Iowa Ambassador and has been coming to both Summer Day Camp and Respite camp for many years!  Blake was diagnosed with ADHD at 2 ½ years old and Autism at 3 years old.  At Camp Sunnyside, Blake has the opportunity to work on communication and social skills and he has the opportunity to increase his independence and have fun with his peers!  Blake loves going to summer camp and Blakes parents are able to maintain their work schedule through summer break.  Blake comes home tired and happy after a day of boating, fishing, swimming and having fun!

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Aaron is a very inquisitive boy.  He likes to learn new things and often enjoys very hands-on activities.  At respite, Aaron really enjoys fishing and basketball.  He is always willing to lead the charge onto a new adventure.  He’s up for trying new activities.  During down times, he likes to chat with peers and staff.  He’s an awesome Uno player!  Aaron has great relationships with the respite staff and his peers.  His kind, fun spirit makes him the type of person other people want to get to know.

This is very different than a few years ago when he would prefer to be off with a staff member, away from his peers and group activities.  What changed?  Aaron has a goal, he loves coming to respite and wants to come more often.  In order to be able to do that, he was challenged to spend more time with the group and be involved in the group activities.  In the past several months, Aaron has really blossomed into a very special young man.  Instead of leaving the group, Aaron sticks around to talk to peers and help out staff with small tasks.  Aaron can often be found either playing a pick up game of basketball with friends, or in the kitchen helping whip up the day’s dessert.  He’s a good cook and seems to be uncovering a hidden talent!

Aaron’s goal has motivated him to become more involved; and in the process, he has made friends and discovered new interests.

CJ thoroughly enjoys going to Camp Sunnyside for respite weekends, but it is really important to him that everyone at Camp enjoys their weekend too.  CJ loves trying new activities at camp and is always encouraging his peers to join in.

CJ has a fun, uplifting attitude toward camp.  He is always happy to be there and always has a smile to share with others.  He always goes the extra mile to make everyone’s activities at camp even better.

CJ learns the names of new campers and makes sure he introduces himself and says hi.  He is exceptional toward his peers and sees beyond their disability – he sees friends.

John has been utilizing camping and respite programs for many years.  In 1997, the camp counselor was trying to encourage him to go horseback riding, but John had other ideas.  John decided that he would like to look through the male counselors bunk to see if he could find anything of interest.  And he did!

The counselor stepped out of the room to get some help on ideas how to motivate John to go to the stables; and when she returned, John was wearing a t-shirt that did not belong to him.  The shirt had a marvelous quote by Oscar Wilde.  John stood there with a grin on his face and his shirt read, “I can resist anything but temptation”.

Through tremendous support from his father and family, John has made incredible progress in the last few years, particularly the past year.  He has become a part of the Respite culture.  In the past, it was typical that you would see John spending most of his time at Camp Sunnyside near the pop machines or with a staff member in the sensory room.  He preferred the one-on-one to being in the group.

John has been working on spending more time involved in activities and with the group than alone with a counselor.  Just recently, we were delighted when John went to every activity, and really enjoyed it!

Kie’Jah is always smiling when she is in respite at Camp Sunnyside.

While at camp, she participates in every activity – swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding and dancing.  She loves to dance!

Many times she has said to her camp counselors, “Look what I did!  I knew I could do it!”
Sillet has been a Camp Sunnyside camper for the past three years.  He has a passion and zest for life that is unsurpassed by anyone at Camp.

He wanted to try everything he could and he did – horseback riding, swimming; and, of course, everyone’s favorite – paint the counselor!

Sillet’s sense of humor and respect for others has made him a great role model for fellow campers.  His positive attitude and energy are extremely contagious.

His counselors have commented that Sillet is liked by all his staff and peers, he’s a joy to work with and his smile makes everyone smile!

David is considered a leader among his teen friends at Camp Sunnyside, not just because he is one cool guy to be around, but because he is respectful and kind to others.

One week when David was at camp, there was a young boy who had never been to camp before, and he was having a hard time getting to know people.  David found out and made sure that he had a great week.  David has tremendous intuition to the needs of others and is just a great kid. 

On Fridays, David would volunteer for camp clean-up because he wanted to keep camp looking cool.  He takes pride in himself and his camp.

Camp Sunnyside made a difference in this young man’s life!

Connor is one amazing child.  He has gone from being unable to express his thoughts and feelings, to a laughable, loveable, playful little boy.  In the beginning of the camp season, Connor had great difficulty transitioning to any activities and the idea of doing so would cause him great stress.  By mid-summer, Connor would interact with the group; and when his name was called to move on to the next activity, he would run and stand by staff, patiently awaiting the transition to the next activity.  He also learned how to share with others.  If another child asked Connor for something he had he might still say no but when reminded about sharing with our friends, he would gladly share the item.

His mother stated Connor talks about his experiences and friends he made at camp often.  “The summer changed his life,” his mother shared.  During the past two years, the transition from summer back to school has been challenging for Connor.  This year, the transition was very smooth.  He is getting along better with this sister and is more independent and he is experiencing a higher quality of life at home and school.His mother attributes this to the structure and social interactions that Connor experienced at Camp Sunnyside.  It has a lasting impact on Connor and set him up for success this school year.

One of the most beautiful things about Camp Sunnyside is that it allows you to explore your surroundings and possibilities without boundaries.

This is exactly what Charlie needed to be able to flourish and grow this summer.

Charlie loved coming to camp and the people he met there, and feelings were returned as evidenced by the tears from his mom, camp counselors and Charlie when camp was over for the summer.

Charlie embodies everything about Camp Sunnyside that is great!