“It’s the greatest place on earth.” That’s how Addie describes Pine Tree Camp.
“The first or second year as we were leaving Pine Tree Camp, that’s what she said,” her father Kevin recalled.
Addie is a junior at Cony High School and has attended Pine Tree Camp since she was nine.
“It’s a phenomenal place,” said Addie’s mother Heidi. “It’s a place where Addie experienced her first friend and what it is to enjoy someone and have that feeling of friendship. It was lovely. And it answered a big question for us: will she ever want to have that interaction with other people?”
That first friendship was life changing, and, because of that experience, Addie went on to make a new friend at school.
“That’s the magic of Pine Tree Camp,” said Dawn Willard-Robinson, Pine Tree Camp’s Director. “The experience of spending time in a barrier-free environment adapted to meet the special needs of our campers results in increased self-esteem, self-worth and the desire to translate skills to other settings like home and school.”
Heidi has a photo of Addie that she cherishes. “It’s a photo of her doing something I’d never seen her do before: she has her hand on top of her friend’s hand.”
It’s a memory Heidi will never forget.
Addie has a natural talent for music. Pine Tree Camp’s music and drama program offer Addy a place to develop her talent and build her self-confidence performing in front of an audience. This led to growing her interest at school.
“She loves Open Mic Night at Pine Tree Camp,” said Kevin. “And she really puts a lot into producing her act.”
“She really works on it,” continued Heidi. “It’s just totally amazing. She picks the song, her outfit and all the moves she wants to make. Each year she gets a little bit more detailed. Everyone cheers and says her name. It’s just a beautiful thing.”
At Cony High School, Addie takes part in Chizzle Wizzle, which is the nation’s longest-running student variety show; a tradition that’s now in its 128th year.
When Addie first started participating, she was a chorus singer in the back with her one-on-one support person right behind her.
Each year, she’s done a little bit more, and, this year, she was chosen as the only soloist to sing during the grand entrance as people walked in to the theatre.
“We didn’t even realize she could sing like that. She brought down the house.”
“It’s incredible to see the growth in our campers as a result of the Pine Tree Camp experience,” said Dawn. “The sessions may only be six-days but the impact is forever.”