Two West Michigan camps with Christian Reformed connections are involving kids with special needs in the camping fun.
Since 2005, Camp Roger in Rockford, Mich., has included one child with special needs in each of its summer sessions. “The blessing was that our son was in a cabin with eight or nine typical boys,” said Gale Tien of Haven Christian Reformed Church in Zeeland, Mich., whose son, David, has autism. “It’s wonderful for him to see typical behaviors—it helps him know what to do.”
“It’s good for the other kids to see that they can help kids who are different from them,” said counselor Lisa Blauwkamp, 23, of Hardewyk CRC, Holland, Mich. “It’s great to see them go the extra mile without being asked or told to do so.”
Since the early 1990s the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds near Grand Haven, Mich., has offered a popular Special Needs Week in June. Applications to the program must be postmarked by a certain date in December. Within two days, all 48 openings for special-needs campers are filled, said organizer Jan DeKock. The 48 volunteers who are matched with the campers are recruited by word of mouth. The families camp while their children with special needs enjoy three daily activities with their mentors, including swimming, games, square dancing, “Special Olympics,” and a talent show.
“I enjoy it because we see our friends and . . . we learn about Jesus and read the Bible,” said Elizabeth Bajema, 23, who has Down syndrome. The Bajemas, of First CRC, Grand Rapids, Mich., have participated in the camp for about 15 years. “We’ll do it until the day we die,” said Jo Bajema, Elizabeth’s mom.