“Operation Shine”….We are really excited about our upcoming camp on June 5-7, 2015 at the Covenant Cedars Camp near Hordville, NE! The camp is for kids ages 7-12 that are experiencing autism, Fragile X, Angelmen’s Syndrome and Down Syndrome. The camp will consist of a two night stay, a number of fun activities (swimming, fishing, arts/crafts, sensory obstacle course, etc.), and two “theme nights” where everyone will dress up. The theme nights will consist of “Superheroes” and “Pirates & Princesses”. We are even having the Exotic Paradise Pet Farm come out to the camp to show some unique animals to the children. It is going to be a BLAST!!

If you have a child that you would like to send to our camp, please let us know. We would love to have them and still have some spots open. We are limiting the number of campers to 30 this first year. We are also still looking for volunteers!! If you know of anyone that is interested, please have them contact us. We have an incredible group of volunteers so far and want to continue to get that total number of volunteers to around 70 if possible.

Like I said in the title, our main goals are for the kids to have FUN and the time of their life, but SAFETY is an area we are taking very serious. We want the parents and families of these children to know that we are trying to put as much stuff in place for the kids to be safe in all aspects of the camp. Below is a list of what the camp will provide for each camper in regards to keeping them safe…..

·       Each camper will have at least one 1-on-1 “Dream Big” Camper

·       All staff & volunteers will have received training in the specific disorders that will be present at this camp

·       There will be nursing staff on site 24/7 & we hope to have an on-call doctor as well

·       There will be 2 mental health therapists on site 24/7 along with other trained professional                                          volunteers on the campgrounds

·       All cabins have full bathroom facilities, handicap accessible

·       Each cabin will have a big camper sleeping in front of the door so access out of the cabin is extremely limited due to the erratic sleeping patterns of the children.

·       We will have staff up through the night monitoring the cabins to ensure that everyone is safe and no children leave the cabins unattended.

·       We have created a camp social story for the kids and their parents to help ease any concerns either may have. That story can be found on our website on the “Operation Shine” Camp page.

·       We will have at least ONE Sensory Room for the kids to access if they become overstimulated or need to take a break

My family knows firsthand the need for safety especially during the overnight hours due to the lack of consistent sleeping patterns for kids on the autism spectrum. Trae’s sleeping patterns are not consistent and he recently has started to get up in the middle of the night and sneak downstairs to play on the computer, DS or do other things without us knowing.  Just the other morning, we found him already up as we were starting to get everyone ready for school. We tried to figure out what he had been up to, but didn’t have time to really focus on that…..until a report from school came.  We received word that he had fallen asleep in art (the school and us thought he may not feel good since we had two other kids home sick).  This was a FIRST for him at school…thankfully! HA!

So, the story continues…….Trae gets home and Kerri checks his planner for the day. It states that Trae told his teachers/paras that he was up really early on the computer. Kerri asked him if he was and he said “YES” and that he was driving the bus on the ipad (games he really likes!). So Kerri checks, and sure enough, ALL the bus games are open on the ipad and the battery is at 9%. He had buried the ipad under a pile of stuff around the computer so we wouldn’t find it or think he had it. He is very smart and starting to be really sneaky.

I am telling you this story only to let you all know that we ARE taking this camp very SERIOUS in regards to the kids safety! Being a parent of a child with autism, I understand the worry and concern parents might have about sending their child to the camp. We hope the many steps we have started to put in place will allow you to feel more comfortable about having your child attend our camp and allow them to have an INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE!

Our motto for the camp is “You cannot blend in…..when you’re meant to SHINE!” We truly feel that each child that attends the camp will be able to do just that!

I want to end this post with introducing you to another individual who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and has went on to do great things. Her name is Heather Kuzmich. She is a fashion model and was a contestant on the reality show “America’s Next Top Model” in 2007. She finished in 5th place on the show and was voted as the viewer’s favorite 8 weeks in a row. She spoke about her decision to join the show, “It was a point in my life where I was thinking either Asperger’s was going to define me or I was going to be able to work around it. At first I was really worried people would laugh at me because I was so very awkward. I got the exact opposite.” When asked about her time growing up, she said “I was at the bottom of the totem pole. I wanted to be a role model for girls who aren’t the most popular and are picked on.”

Another great story of overcoming your fears and worries and setting your goals high! The Kids & Dreams Foundation will continue to “DREAM BIG” for those children and families we come in contact with and hope we can be a role model for individuals needing support, resources or other options. Together we WILL make a difference!

Links used for the story on Heather Kuzmich include the story on “These 8 Inspiring People Will Change The Way You Think About Autism And Asperger’s”- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/12/autism-celebrities-aspergers_n_4427196.html

#autism #awareness #dreambig #kidsanddreams #operationshine #500forautism