Even though school has started back, summer is still a hot topic of conversation for children. Teachers and friends ask children how they spent their summer and what fun activities they did. Most children will have enthusiastic responses about a family vacation or a camp experience, but not every child will have special summer story to tell.
The Texas Lions Camp is doing its part to make sure children with physical disabilities, type-1 diabetes, cancer and Down syndrome have a fun summer story to share, along with much more.
“Texas Lions Camp is a camp specifically designed to help children find their calling and for them to walk into who they really are,” Trish Wilson, Texas Lions Camp marketing and public relations director said.
Most children with physical disabilities, type-1 diabetes, cancer or Down syndrome aren’t able to attend regular summer camps because of lack of accommodations, cost, or the fear of being different. At Texas Lions Camp, those barriers are never a factor.
These children are able to come to the one-week residential camp on 500 acres in the Texas Hill Country and experience everything a child should experience in the summer. From fishing and swimming, to scaling a climbing wall and riding horses Texas Lions Camp has it all.
“They are a kid first and the medical condition they are dealing with is just an after thought,” Wilson said. “Their condition doesn’t define them. Children come and find an even playing field enabling them to do all the things they hear their friends doing, but they haven’t had the opportunity to do until now.”
The camp is designed with state of the art facilities to accommodate the children’s disabilities and medical conditions. As an American Camp Association accredited facility, Texas Lions Camp offers nothing less than the best summer experience for every child.
“They are able to step onto our campus and do some of the most incredible things they never thought were possible,” Wilson said.
Texas Lions Camp’s facilities and activities are designed to help every child manipulate their circumstances to do a regular activity. Children with no legs can ride a horse and a child who only has one arm and no legs can climb a 30-foot climbing wall. Whatever any child wants to do they can do it.
Texas Lions Camp was started back in 1949 as an answer to the polio epidemic that was ravaging the country. The Lions of Texas wanted to be able to offer all children, no matter if their legs were in braces or if they were confined to a wheel chair, the opportunity to still be a kid. The first year of camp all the children had polio. Since then, Texas Lions Camp has added over 150 other disabilities.
Over the 67 years they have existed, they’ve had 70,000 children as campers. The children who attend Texas Lions Camp have a variety of disabilities and medical conditions, but the heart of a child is still at the camp’s core.
A picturesque, summer camp experience isn’t the only thing Texas Lions Camp offers. Through all of the activities and experiences Texas Lions Camp offers its campers, they are improving their self-image and building their self-confidence.
“These children come here and realize they can be a valuable part of their community, their family, and their school,” Wilson said. “They go back home with a new found confidence, an improved self-image and they get involved.”
Texas Lions Camp has a ‘can do’ philosophy where the word can’t is never used. If a child isn’t able to do something, they work with the child to figure out what they can do. They try to help the children see their obstacles as opportunities.
“It is getting into their mind that ‘can do’ philosophy no matter their situation,” Wilson said. “They may not be able to do it exactly like every else, but they learn there is a way they can do it like no one else.”
“They become successful, viable people and step into their roll, their calling, and their piece of who they are going to be because they realize their disabilities do not define them.”
At Texas Lions Camp, children come out of their shell, and realize their potential and gifts. This was especially true for one special young lady. Most dancers have beautiful legs and talented feet, but what if you don’t have feet?
One such camper, Paulina faced this challenge. She is a double-leg amputee from the knees down and wears prosthetic legs that she navigates well in. However, when she dances she foregoes her prosthetics.
“She is one of the best dancers I have ever seen,” Wilson said. “I was stunned by this young lady and her talent.”
Paulina wants to make dancing her vocation and is on her way to doing so. After watching her dance, Wilson told her she wanted to ask her a question. The young girl responded, ‘you want to know why I took off my legs? Wilson said yes.
The young starry-eyed camper replied, ‘sometimes you have to take off what the world gives you in order to be what you were created to be.’ She knew she was a dancer. She just needed a stage to prove it.
“At Texas Lions Camp they find out who they really are,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of things that Texas Lions Camp is, but basically it is the blank canvas and the children come in and paint the masterpiece of who they are.”
Texas Lions Camp provides children with the tools they need to build their life and discover who they want to become. This ranges from diabetes education for children with type-1 diabetes to instilling the confidence to do anything for children with disabilities.
“It is a tremendous blessing to be able to be a part of that and watch them do it,” Wilson said.
Texas Lions Camp is not only changing these children’s lives but making the lives of their families better too. By having a place for these children to come to, families can be refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated.
“They come back so much more in love with that child,” Wilson said. “They don’t realize how much that child brings to their family until they aren’t there for a week.”
As an added bonus to what Texas Lions Camp offers these families, their children are able to attend camp at no cost. The costs for these families are already high to care for their children. Through the over 900 Lions Clubs across Texas, each child’s cost to attend is covered.
Facilitating camp wouldn’t be possible without the counselors, staff, volunteers, Texas Lions Clubs, and generous donors. Each year these groups of people give back through their time and money to make summer dreams come true. For opportunities to donate, volunteer or become a counselor visit lionscamp.com.
The applications for 2017 camp open on January 3, 2017. Online applications are available at lionscamp.com under application. Online applications are preferred, although paper applications are available for download in February 2017. Application materials include the application, a doctor waiver and a Texas Lion sponsor.
For children to attend, they must have a qualifying disability. Disabilities may be internal or external. For clarification of qualifying disabilities contact the Texas Lions Camp at 830-896-8500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I work for the best place in the world,” Wilson said. “Texas Lions Camp changes lives and it changes them one at a time.”