Two years ago, Jackson was set to attend Camp Pine Cone for the very first time, then the pandemic hit.
“We had to put everything on hold,” his mother, Erin, recalled. “He was heartbroken he couldn’t go to Camp.”
That’s where Pine Tree Camp Adventure Day Pass came in, allowing them the chance to come to Camp together as a family — not just in the summer but during the winter, as well. Being together for the day at Pine Tree Camp allowed their family to slow down and enjoy each other, which also gave Erin a much-needed opportunity to relax.
“So often when you’re a special needs parent, you can lose sight of the importance of just having fun with your kid. Sometimes you need to step back from the role of being your child’s advocate. You just want to be your kid’s mom and have fun with them. Jackson got to try new things. and it provided our whole family with a lot of fun. There were so many activities set up that I didn’t have to plan. We could just get outside and enjoy being together.”
Jackson loves to fish and got to try his hand at ice fishing for the first time. They enjoyed sledding together and making s’mores around the camp fire, but the big surprise was how much they loved snowshoeing. Jackson’s younger sister, Sabrina, pushed them all to give it a chance, and they were glad they did.
“It was awesome! I never in a million years thought that was something we would ever try. It was nice to be surprised how much we all enjoyed it!”
Jackson is eleven and has an intellectual disability that’s not readily apparent to others. Erin finds she often needs to explain to people why he’s having trouble finding the right word or doesn’t understand something.
“It’s nice to be somewhere you don’t have to explain. Jackson has reached the age where he’s aware that he’s different from his peers. When he’s at Pine Tree Camp, he can be his most true self and doesn’t have to pretend to fit in.”
That supportive environment makes a world of difference for Erin as a parent, as well.
“I know I have a tendency to be overprotective. The staff recognizes it’s hard for parents to let go and let their child blossom on their own. At Pine Tree Camp I feel I can let my kiddo have more freedom. I can let him be himself.”
As a school nurse, Erin knows how important being outdoors is for a person’s well-being, especially for children and families living with disabilities who find it more difficult to get outside.
“Spending the day outside in nature at Pine Tree Camp, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s very grounding and helps quiet your mind. Being outdoors helps reduce depression and anxiety. Our children are lost behind screens right now and anytime we can get them outside in nature helps.”