Wednesday, September 10, 2008


VARILITE® Supports Recreation for All
A Report from Camp ACCESS 2008
Flowing Lake, Snohomish, Washington, USA

Camp ACCESS has a motto, “Never Confuse Disability with Inability,”
which is a perfect way to describe this camp’s goal of introducing young campers to the latest in adaptive recreational activities and equipment. Camp ACCESS was established in May of 2002 to provide a summer camp experience to kids with physical disabilities. It is the belief of the camp’s founder Ernie Butler, the Executive Director of the Northwest Paralyzed Veterans Association, that if the camp can help improve the skill level and confidence of the campers through recreation, then it can also help improve their confidence with day to day living skills. The 20 campers were kids with varying disabilities that experienced activities such as power wheelchair soccer, adaptive kayaking, tubing, sailing, hand-cycling, fishing, and swimming. Also available were skill building activities such as the wheelchair obstacle course, designed after the obstacle course used at the National Veteran Wheelchair Games.

I have been a camp volunteer for two years, and it was great to come back this year on behalf of VARILITE®. My role was to be a Team Coach, and work with the campers ages 7-12. Camp ACCESS utilizes Certified Recreational Therapists as Team Leaders and the Team Coaches are mostly paralyzed veterans, I was the only female coach. It was an honor to work with the other three Team Coaches, who are not only disabled veterans, but very accomplished athletes. They have participated in the National Veteran Wheelchair Games; some handcyclist’s completed the “Seattle to Portland” bike marathon, and even a Paralympian was among the crew of coaches. There were also many other wonderful volunteers such as the “Camp Buddies”, which were high school students who were partnered up with a camper to provide encouragement and assistance with simple care needs.

In past years VARILITE has been a great supporter of Camp ACCESS by providing camp equipment donations. The Missing Link™ tents and the Outfitter Wing™ tents that were donated this year provided both shelter and respite for the kids from the hot sun and occasional rain. The Platypus® hydration packs given to each camper helped keep them hydrated and were unique because the kids could attach them to their wheelchairs. A new item we donated this year was the Camp Seats™ and they were a big hit with the campers. Many of them used the seats to put on the ground if they transferred out of their wheelchairs so they were comfortable without having to sit on their own wheelchair cushions on the ground. One camper’s mother made a point to seek me out and thank me and Cascade Designs because she appreciated how much she put the Camp Seat™ to use. She said it helped her when she transferred her son out of his wheelchair onto the ground for him to get into the water, and she didn’t have to worry about him sitting on the hard ground or having to get his own wheelchair cushion all wet.

There were also many young female campers, and as the only female coach with a disability I was able to be a good role model and help build enthusiasm and confidence in these young women. I wanted to show all the campers that despite having physical limitations, they can grow up, get a job, be independent, drive a car, enjoy outdoor recreation, and live life to the fullest. One of the campers that I will never forget was a young girl who had been home schooled for the last seven years because kids used to make fun of her disability and sometimes even pushed her out of her wheelchair. A few days after camp she was going back to school for the first time in seven years as a freshman in high school, and she said that attending Camp ACCESS this year was very important because the camp helps her self-confidence and social skills. I know we’ll keep in contact and that relating my experiences made her more confident about entering high school. I hope she is having a great week at her new school and making lots of friends.

Attending Camp ACCESS was such a wonderful experience because in 4 days I saw campers expand their personal limits, try new activities and develop personal skills and friendships. VARILITE’s sponsorship is more than just donating time and equipment; it is about helping change the lives of kids with disabilities one at a time in many different ways.

Tammy Wilber
VARILITE® Marketing Representative

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