The song “My Way” could have been written for Kellen. He’s done everything his own way since the day he was born. From learning to ski at age four, to shooting a bow and arrow, to keeping up with his seven active siblings, six-year-old Kellen never lets his wheelchair slow him down.
“When he was born, he was diagnosed with cancer and we knew then he would be paralyzed from the waist down,” recalled his mother Elizabeth.
She and Kellen’s father Dan asked his doctors ‘What is this child going to be able to do?’ “And they told us ‘Anything he wants to, but just a little bit differently.’”
They live in Detroit, and Elizabeth was thinking ‘We’re in the middle of Maine, there’s not going to be anything for this kiddo.’
Then his physical therapist told them about Pine Tree Camp.
“She said there was a wonderful place in Rome called Pine Tree Camp and, when he was old enough, he was going to love it.”
His physical therapist had seen first hand how Pine Tree Camp’s fully accessible campus would open a barrier-free world to Kellen where he’d be able to leave behind the confines of his wheelchair and experience the freedom of outdoor activities like swimming, boating, fishing and climbing into a fully accessible tree house.
Elizabeth and Dan filed it away in the back of their minds and thought, when the time came, he’d go there. “But part of me was reluctant,” she recalled.
Elizabeth’s hesitation was that his needs were purely physical. Kellen doesn’t have any developmental delays and she was worried he might not be challenged. But, they decided to trust what everyone had told them and give it a shot.
They were immediately glad they did.
“It’s a stunning, beautiful place and there’s so much positivity,” she said. “And when I picked him up, there was just no doubt. He had the best time. He was so excited and so full of fun. He had gone swimming and done all sorts of activities. He had a great time with all the kids who were there and already knew all their names. It was a really good experience.”
While having fun, Kellen also learned valuable life-long skills.
“He was able to use his voice and say what he’d like to do and make choices,” Elizabeth continued. “That gave him a sense of responsibility. He had a real sense of ownership about what he was doing.”
Elizabeth and Dan also benefited in ways they didn’t expect.
“We’ve met some wonderful parents. It’s a great chance to network. When you live in a rural area you don’t get to talk with other parents whose kids have gone through what your child has gone through and Pine Tree Camp makes that possible.”
We can’t wait to see what Kellen does next! You can be sure of one thing: he’ll do it his way.