By Tia Lynn Ivey
As the summer season fast approaches, leaders at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge are preparing the grounds for their annual summer camps for disabled children and teenagers. At an Open House event at the end of April, Camp Twin Lakes welcomed 100 first-time campers and their families to tour the grounds to get a taste of what camp will be like this summer.
“The purpose of the event was to invite new campers to come out to see their cabins and to see the lay of the land– to get excited about all the activities they will participate in at camp,” said Cheryl Belair, director of development for Camp Twin Lakes. “Parents were able to ask questions about our medical facilities and supervision and how we create a safe and supportive environment for all of our campers.”
Summer camps will begin Memorial Day weekend, May 25, and run through August 2. A group of campers will stay an entire week overnight at Camp Twin Lakes for a one-of-a-kind experience.
“For many of our campers, Camp Twin Lakes will be the only camp experience they ever had, so we want to make it a great one,” said Belair.
Camp Twin Lakes typically hosts about 3,600 kids throughout the summer camp season, and a total of 10,000 throughout the entire year. Camp Twin Lakes, which is in its 27th year, is fully equipped to accommodate children with a variety of special needs and medical diagnoses to ensure every camper is safe, cared for and can fully participate in all the activities camp has to offer.
According to Belair, Camp Twin Lakes accommodates 64 different diagnoses and life-challenges, including cancer, diabetes, limb amputations, developmental disabilities, and children in foster care system.
“We welcome children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and various life-challenges,” said Belair. “All of the equipment is fully adaptable so that all of our children are able to participate, whether it’s horseback riding, rock wall climbing, archery, boating, or fishing. We have a medical staff that comes out to camp that understands and knows how to meet the unique needs of each diagnosis out at camp. We also have a medical lodge where children can receive chemotherapy treatment or dialysis while at camp. It’s awesome that they don’t have to leave camp to go to a clinic or hospital to receive treatment while at camp.”
The open house was also for the local community to come out and familiarize themselves with Camp Twin Lakes.
“We wanted people to come out and see what is going on in their own backyard and inspire them to become more involved,” said Belair, who noted Camp Twin Lakes is in need of more volunteers and financial donations.
“I would like for the community to know that this camp experience is located right here in Morgan County and we serve their community and their children. We rely on the community for volunteers to support the camp experience and for donations to provide camper scholarships for all of our children who attend.”
Camp Twin Lakes leaders believe the organization’s summer camp program are a vital component for the social development and enjoyment of their campers.
According to Camp Twin Lakes, the summer camp program is intentionally designed to “ teach campers to overcome obstacles while creating shared experiences with other children who face similar challenges. After spending every other day of the year adapting to the world around them, for one week, camp adapts to them.”
Camp Twin Lakes is a rare program, with no other organization like it in all of Georgia.
“There are no other fully accessible and medically equipped camp programs in Georgia able to meet the extensive range of needs of our campers,” said a Camp Twin Lakes press release. “Unlike other organizations that are dedicated to programs for a specific diagnosis, CTL serves children with asthma, spina bifida, cancer, HIV, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, brain injuries, hemophilia, Tourette syndrome, autism, arthritis, visual impairments, developmental disabilities, sickle cell disease, celiac disease, Crohn’s and colitis, as well as kids in foster care, transplant recipients, and kids who have lost a loved one – just to name a few!”
Camp Twin Lakes is dedicated to financially assisting campers to ensure lack of money does not prevent families from experiencing the program.
“With help from donors and fundraising events, Camp Twin Lakes is able to subsidize 70 percent of the cost of each camper through the donor funded Camper Scholarship Program, and most of our campers attend camp at no cost to their families,” explains a Camp Twin Lakes press release.
To get volunteer, donate or find out more information about Camp Twin Lakes and the 60 camps offered through its partnerships, go to camptwinlakes.org.