“The personal successes we saw this summer were amazing,” said Dawn Willard-Robinson, Director of Pine Tree Camp, of the 2021 summer season.
While Covid-19 continued to present challenges, Pine Tree Camp stayed the course offering a full slate of programming to get campers and their families engaged, active and outdoors.
“I had an unbelievable experience with an adult camper in a wheelchair who wanted to ride an adaptive hand bicycle,” she said. “She had no core strength and a lot of muscle weakness so we quickly adapted and used a Hoyer lift to safely transfer her from her chair to the bike. Once we had her securely on the bike, she took right off. I was shocked to see her move so swiftly. When she got back from her ride, her posture and demeanor was completely changed. It was incredible to see how proud she was. She talked about it for the rest of the day.”
This woman’s courage to try something new was life-changing not just for herself, but for another camper she motivated to get out of her comfort zone and try biking as well.
“One of the other campers was interested in the bikes, but was afraid to try. Once she saw the other woman be so successful, she decided she could do it too. It was inspiring,” Dawn recalled.
Trying new things and taking risks in an inclusive setting helps people gain confidence in their daily lives to do things they didn’t think they could do.
“Recreational experiences give people confidence in what they’re able to do and try,” Dawn said. “At Pine Tree Camp, people attempt something they might not have thought about before. Through having a new experience, they gain confidence that propels them to go out and try something else at home. You gain skills when you try things out in a safe environment and then take that confidence and translate it into what you can do in your everyday life.”
For the second year in a row, it wasn’t just campers who experienced the magic of Pine Tree Camp, it was their families as well. Pine Tree Camp Adventure Day Pass and Family Camp welcomed families to come together for a day or to stay overnight in a cabin.
Family Camp launched this summer and includes a cabin, meals and participation in specially developed day and evening programs.
“Just like that great family vacation you talk about for your whole lives, Pine Tree Camp is now that same kind of shared experience for families,” Dawn continued. “It was an amazing opportunity for families to come together to relax and recreate safely outside. We saw really cool things happen.”
Kristine and her son, Shane, were among the very first campers to stay overnight.
“I’ll never forget it,” Kristine said. “We had our own cabin right next to the waterfront and because it was a small group of people staying overnight, we got to spend time together and also hang out with other families.”
Shane is 16 years old and has been coming to Pine Tree Camp since he was seven.
“As a parent it was good to see what he experiences at camp,” Kristine continued. “The fifirst night at the campfifire they sang songs and Shane wanted to lead the group. He was comfortable enough to just get up there and do it. I didn’t even realize he knew all those songs. It was nice to see him take a leadership role. The whole weekend, he wasn’t shy or quiet or watching his step like he normally does. I was able to see that. It was such a gift. He’s so comfortable at Pine Tree Camp.”
Next summer, when Shane comes to Pine Tree Camp for a week by himself, his mom will know what to ask about when he gets home because she saw what he experiences.
“A lot of times parents can see the growth in their child when they get home but they don’t know what to ask about,” said Dawn. “Now they know. They saw what happened and can ask ‘Did you catch a fish?’ or ‘What was your favorite song?’”
Parents were also able to connect with other parents, share information, ask questions and just relax and have a good time. “This fall and winter campers and families will continue to explore and try new things together,” Dawn concluded.
“Not only will they have fun, but they will continue to form stronger bonds with their community and, through exploring and trying new things, enhance motor development and curiosity; two critical pieces to help offset learning loss their child might be experiencing at school. Trying new things is the beauty of Pine Tree Camp.”