Written by: Becky Duchene, one of our many dedicated Leaps & Bounds parents!
Fun! Exercise! Fun! Friendship! Fun! Science! Fun! Writing! Fun! Math! Fun! Art! Fun! Water!
These are the words that come to my mind as I consider the Summer Camp sessions provided by Leaps and Bounds each year. Each spring, my boys, Samuel and Noah, wait expectantly for the colorful summer brochure to pop up on my computer screen in order to discover the themes for the different weeks of camp. As I open my old-school spiral-bound planner to the pages for June, July, and August, I hear both Samuel and Noah chatter excitedly next to me as they take turns reading descriptions and exchanging opinions. Time at Leaps and Bounds is truly a highlight of each summer for my sons – and for me!
We in the St. Louis area have an abundance of summer camps from which to choose every single year. All of them provide countless opportunities for fun and learning, yet I continue to select only those at Leaps and Bounds for a few basic reasons:
1) My sons always have a wonderful time.
2) Their special needs are carefully considered and meaningfully met.
3) Their safety is paramount in my eyes and in those of the staff.
4) I am fully at peace during every minute of those hours.
My husband and I have four older children (ages 17, 18, 20, and 21) who never attended camps of any kind when they were younger. We simply filled our summer days with trips to the zoo, parks and the local pool. There was plenty of time to rest and have fun for all of us as we gathered with friends or traveled to see extended family several hours away. Since all of my children were “typical” with no learning or behavioral challenges, it was not difficult for me to meet the needs we all had during the summer months. By the middle of August, each of us was refreshed and ready for the structure and schedule that the school year provides.
Life is completely different now. Our younger sons (ages 8 and 9) joined our family through separate adoptions in 2008 and 2009. By the time they were preschoolers, I realized that each of them had some emerging special needs that I would not be able to meet on my own. Gradually, my husband and I “grew a team” of both professionals and friends who came alongside of us as we worked to provide everything necessary for our sons to meet their full potential. Leaps and Bounds therapists became a vital and much-loved part of our team in December of 2014, and their camp sessions became a regular part of our summer routine in 2015.
My boys are already looking forward to camp this year. They love the large movement activities as well as the hands-on science experiments and crafts. They look forward to making new friends and seeing old ones as well. While one son brings all of his own snacks in his lunch bag, the other enjoys the various theme-related offerings from the L&B staff. The water activities are always a big hit and packing swim suits and towels into our bag brings lots of excitement and expectations for the day ahead.
For me, I love knowing that my kids are going to have competent supervision as well as loads of fun. I am able to enjoy those hours because I know my boys are safe. I know that the therapists, staff, and volunteers have thoroughly prepared for each day in order to care for the group as a whole while also meeting specific needs of each individual camper. I am therefore able to fully focus on other things such as completing projects at home, enjoying uninterrupted conversations with my older children, planning for the school year (we homeschool, and I teach one day per week at a local learning center), or simply taking some much-needed time away for myself. I firmly believe that I am only able to experience these rare moments of peace and serenity because I know that my sons are having a wonderful time in an exceptionally caring and safe environment.
I highly recommend Leaps and Bounds summer camps to others throughout the year: church friends; adoptive parents; parents of kids with special needs; and parents who simply want that “something extra” in terms of safety and individual attention for their kids. My boys talk about camp all year long, too, although their focus is completely upon the fun they have each day! I am confident that when Samuel and Noah reach the ages that my older children are now, they will have very fond memories of the weeks they spent at Leaps and Bounds each summer. For this, I will always be incredibly thankful.