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Back to Blog Main Page Camp Independence Celebrates 50 Years
By: Jean Carl

Inside MossRehab

Jul 27 2021

Camp Independence, the only retreat of its kind in the country specifically for adults with physical disabilities, is turning 50 this year! Throughout the years, hundreds of adults with physical disabilities have enjoyed a week-long camping adventure hosted by MossRehab where they can socialize, participate in different camping activities, and make life-long friends and memories.

 It all started in 1971, when MossRehab worked with the Variety Club Camp (VCC) to create a weekend camping experience for adult men with physical disabilities. Since then, Camp Independence has evolved into a week-long overnight camping venture for co-eds with varying physical disabilities. Sponsored fully by MossRehab, the camp remains on the grounds of the VCC site in Worcester, PA.

“Camp Independence gives people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy traditional social and recreational camp activities that they would not be able to do on their own,” explains Jack Miller, Independence Camp Director for 25 years. “A lot of individuals don’t have the support that we can offer to take care of their physical needs.”

The camp accommodates up to 40 campers with varying disabilities. Much of the community are former MossRehab patients who have experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury, and those with congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and multiple sclerosis.

Many campers have been coming for repeat years. "I can name one camper who has been coming for about 30 years. For many, it's one of their favorite places that they look forward to attending all year," explains Miller. "It gives them a chance to get out of the house and gain independence to do favorite outdoor activities for the week while meeting up with good friends."

Experiencing the joys of camping

Days are full of activities designed for accessibility by all campers. Each person can choose what they want to do each day. A day of recreation may include swimming, archery, whiffle ball, fishing, arts & crafts, or even horticulture. Special events include a dance that kicks off the week to welcome new and returning campers, as well as a traditional campfire. "Swimming is a favorite among campers," says Miller. "One year, they might just venture into the water up to their ankles and gradually move into the water each camp visit."

MossRehab recreational therapists do different activities with the campers including games, arts & crafts, and horticultural therapy. A speech pathologist also is on hand to examine individuals with swallowing and eating difficulties. Young adults studying to become recreation, physical, occupational and speech therapists, or other healthcare professionals serve as camp counselors who stay the entire week to direct programs and provide assistance with campers. And there is always a resident physician and nurse on duty.

Socialization is big

While experiencing the great outdoors is the focus of Camp Independence, the opportunity to socialize and interact with individuals with similar disabilities is a major draw. "Many campers are not around many people with disabilities and tend to stay at home," Miller remarks. "At Camp Independence, they come out of their shells and open up to enjoy themselves."

Because of its contributions to improving the lives of persons with disabilities, Camp Independence was the recipient of the Recognition Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Access Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities.

2021 camp is virtual

Due to the pandemic, the camp will take place virtually this year from August 16th to the 20th. Everyone who participated last year was automatically enrolled in the virtual event. "We intend to do arts & crafts, games, a scavenger hunt, chair yoga, and have a special guest event," explains Miller. "Participants received a care package that included a T-shirt and supplies in July."

Learn more about Camp Independence.

Inside MossRehab

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