By Sarah Stoesz
Special needs children in Fishers are being given the opportunity to play and grow this summer at Camp Riley.
Five Fishers families have children attending Camp Riley which has been in operation for almost 60 years and is located at Indiana University’s outdoor recreation center, Bradford Woods, near Martinsville. Over 200 campers are attending Camp Riley this summer.
Children with disabilities are able to attend Camp Riley. It is part of Riley Hospital for Children and the activities are customized to meet each child’s individual needs and abilities.
Fishers resident Amy Ettinger has twin boys that have attended Camp Riley for the last two years.
“It’s hard trusting people that you don’t know with your child, especially in an environment that you don’t know,” Ettinger said. “However, at the camp, they are staffed with such talented people that they make everything adaptable for the children. I am just in awe of what the staff can do and how they have set things up for the kids.”
Ettinger’s twins, Trey and Blake, 15, have Cerebral Palsy. The boys love going to Camp Riley because they are able to do activities they normally would not be able to do such as climbing “Cardiac Hill,” swimming in a lake, and horseback riding.
“They love going to camp,” she said. “They look forward to it. They can’t wait to get rid of mom and have a week or two to themselves with friends and camp counselors and doing fun activities.”
Camp Riley assists special needs children in developing skills that allow them to become more independent. It empowers them by increasing their confidence to achieve without feeling limited or restricted by their disability.
“It has helped them to develop positive attitudes, they are more engaged in group activities, it has helped with their social skills, and their independence,” Ettinger said. “It has helped them to become enthused about doing things by themselves and without me or family.”
Any child between the ages of eight and 18 can attend Camp Riley regardless of the family’s ability to pay. The camp runs from mid-June to the end of July.
“I have nothing but great things to say about it,” Ettinger said. “I encourage all families to check it out and to enroll their child. It’s a great opportunity for the child and the parent.”
To learn more about Camp Riley, visit http://www.rileykids.org/about/camp_riley/.