Tyler Daigle is a veteran Pine Tree camper from Rumford. Until he came to camp when he was in second grade, he didn’t know anyone else in a wheelchair. Thirteen years later at age 22, Tyler still attends camp each summer.
“At first, it was hard for me to separate from him. But once he was there, I was so grateful,” his mother, Sue Grace, recalled. “For the first time ever I saw a group of young boys who were just like my son. He was not alone. He was accepted.”
That was the moment she knew Pine Tree Camp was going to give him the experiences he needed. “I still cry when I think about it.”
“Pine Tree Camp has such a positive atmosphere,” said Tyler. “You can talk with people who have the same struggles as you do. And I’m able to do stuff I normally wouldn’t do in a much easier way.”
Fishing, taking the pontoon boat across the lake for an ice cream, or riding a motorcycle are all experiences Tyler has particularly enjoyed.
For his mom, it’s a real gift. Tyler was diagnosed with Duchene muscular dystrophy when he was five years old and she is his primary caregiver. “I call Pine Tree Camp a little piece of heaven because it allows me to have down time. It’s good for him and for me.”
It’s campers like Tyler who inspired Franklin Savings Bank to become a Pine Tree Camp 100 sponsor.
“I’m so pleased that we are able to make it possible for a local young person to enjoy the camper experience at Pine Tree Camp,” said the bank’s CEO Peter Judkins.
Since opening in 1945, Pine Tree has welcomed all campers regardless of their ability to pay tuition. No camper has ever been turned away. Franklin Savings Bank’s contribution keeps the camp’s open door policy firmly in place.
Tyler just completed his junior year at the University of Maine in Farmington. He’s majoring in history, which is something he’s been interested in since he was a kid. “College has been very good and a lot of fun. It’s something I’m interested in studying.”
You can hear the pride in Sue’s voice when she says, “Pine Tree Camp has helped Tyler’s self-esteem and he is as independent as he possibly can be. When he’s at home, he goes downtown alone and rides all over the island and back. It’s a blessing.”