‘The best week of the year’

A Camper gets their face painted at the MDA Summer Camp.

A camper gets their face superimposed over a classic movie poster.

Campers race to get toppings in a cake decorating competition.

Campers decorate cakes during a decorating competition.

Campers decorate cakes during a decorating competition.

“There isn’t anything they can’t do”

That was the mantra last week as the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) brought over 60 children from throughout the state to YMCA Camp Hanes for the annual MDA Summer Camp.

“There are kids here from the Triad, the Triangle and the coastal area,” said Dual Executive Director Muscular Dystrophy Association of the Piedmont Triad and Triangle areas of North Carolina Brittne Stevens. “The more kids we can have here, the better experience it is for campers. It is the best week of the year.”

She said this year 66 children aged six to 17 attended the camp from Sunday through Friday.

“It is provided at no cost to mom and dad,” she said. “That is what we do fundraising for throughout the year. We provide complete lodging, meals and medical care for the entire week.”

The organization also provides lots of fun and opportunity for children battling Muscular Dystrophy and related conditions.

At MDA Camp, children can set aside their disabilities and simply be kids among friends. The program encourages campers to stretch out of their comfort zones, try something new and make new friends – all in a safe, and accessible environment designed to meet their unique needs. Campers enjoy activities such as swimming, fishing, music, arts and crafts and adaptive sports.

“We go non-stop form 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.,” said Stevens. “The kids get to do water activities. We have lake activities and pool is a big favorite. We have horseback riding thanks to Lowes who had a ramp constructed so our kids could do horseback riding.

“We have a theme for each day,” she added, noting those themes ranged from a western day to a superhero day to a time-travel adventure day featuring an 80s throwback dance. “We try to make it really fun-filled and make sure they get as much out of the week as we can.”

The camp brings in a collection of special counselors for the week.

“They are all recruited and vetted by MDA staff,” said Stevens. “It is a very extensive process, and they are incredible people. They are an extension of the camper and help them to eat, play and bathe.

“It is all about highlighting the kid’s abilities and showing them what they can do,” she added. “Here they can get in the pool, we have everything they need to do it and do it safely and have as much fun as possible.”

She said the free camp is open to any child who meets the eligibility requirements.

“We have a number of kids who come from the time they are eligible at six years old until they graduate,” said Stevens. “We make sure the parents can get them here. Anyone who wants to come we ant to be able to facilitate that.”

She said parents interested in the program should visit mda.org.

“Just put in your zip code and it will tell you where your local office is,”she said. “We definitely want them to find us. We also provide clinics in all of our markets in an effort to make sure they not only get the fun stuff but also the help they need from day to day. If you know someone whose life has been touched by muscular dystrophy then they should reach out because we can help.”

The MDA Summer Camp celebrated its 60th year last week, but it is was the second year in a row that it has been held at YMCA Camp Hanes.

“Previously we were at Camp Carefree in Stokesdale,” said Stevens, noting that they had moved last year in order to accommodate more children. “We love Camp Hanes. They are amazing hosts and have bent over backwards to accommodate our staff and our children.”

YMCA Camp Hanes Executive Director Val Elliott said he loves hosting the camp at his facility.

“It is a pleasure, it is a blessing, it is a privilege for us to be able to partner with the North Carolina Muscluar Distrophy Association to make a difference in children’s lives,” he said. “We feel very blessed to have the partnership and look forward to many, many years to come.”

Sponsors for last week’s camp include Bojangles, NuMotion, Kohl’s, PVH, Piedmont Natural Gas, Enterprise, Aaron’s, Lowes Home Improvement, Bayada Home Healthcare, Handi Clean Family Foundation, VF, and individuals in the MDA lock-up programs.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to finding treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

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