MDA Summer Camp Lets Kids Be Kids

Thirteen-year-old Summer of Champaign-Urbana has been attending the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Summer Camp at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center at Lake Bloomington for six years. While at the weeklong camp, “she gets to be a kid,” said her mother Autumn.

MDA camper Summer and her mother make silly faces during a sponsor event at the camp at Timber Point Outdoor Center at Lake Bloomington

“She doesn’t have to worry about doctors’ visits or any of those scary medical things,” said Autumn. “She can have limitless adventures while having the time of her life.”

Summer and 45 other campers with muscle disease had plenty of adventures available during a week in July: arts and crafts, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, a zip line course, a camp dance, a talent show and boat rides with residents of Lake Bloomington. All of this under the supervision of 55 trained camp counselors and staff, with nurses in attendance and a doctor on call.

The campers, aged 8-17, sleep overnight in cabins grouped by gender and age. Boys outnumber girls at camp slightly. View more photos from MDA Summer Camp.

“The campers gain independence and self-confidence,” said Andie Savoree, Executive Director of MDA Central Illinois.

“They are figuring out on their own what they need help with and how to ask for help,” added Molly McDonald, Fundraising Coordinator for the Central Illinois region. “At camp, they find out what they can do, rather than what they cannot do.”

In addition to trying new things, campers at MDA Summer Camp are making friends that remain from year to year. Summer’s mom agreed, saying her daughter begins counting down the days to the next camp the day she gets home from camp.

Camper Hope and a counselor Kayla wear shaving cream on their noses while working on an art project at MDA Summer Camp.

Another youngster attending the weeklong camp was Hope from Ewing, Mo., near Quincy, Ill. Hope, age 11, said her favorite thing to do during the week was swimming. In addition, she enjoyed sleeping in a cabin and the talent show, where she sang “Do You Want to Make a Snowman?” from Frozen.

Perhaps what Hope was looking forward to most was the dance on the final night of camp. She had packed a special dress to wear and was looking forward to getting the star treatment. According to counselor Dawn, who has attended MDA Summer Camp for 21 years, students at a local cosmetology school visit and help campers with hair and make-up before the dance. And, a sort of “Pimp My Ride” event, campers’ wheelchairs are decorated for the dance.

It was clear to those in attendance for Sponsor Day that MDA Summer Camp is succeeding in building self-confidence in kids with muscle disease and providing them with the tools to advocate for themselves.

Campers enjoy games at the lodge at MDA Summer Camp at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center

Summer is taking self-advocacy to a higher level – she’s been named MDA’s Illinois Ambassador. She travels around the state talking to people about MDA, the research it funds and how it goes the extra mile in improving lives, said her mother.

Summer’s family exemplifies going the extra mile, said Savoree. With another camper’s family, they organized Bunny’s Bash which raised $33,000 for MDA this year. “They’re our top sponsor for camp, raising enough money to send 15 kids to camp,” said Savoree.

“It’s our way to give back to this organization that has done so much for Summer,” said Autumn.

Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Summer Camp received a $2,000 General Grant and a $2,000 Youth Engaged in Philanthropy Grant through Illinois Prairie Community Foundation in 2018. “We truly could not do all we do for our families without you,” said McDonald. “It is because of grants like this that we are helping people with muscle disease live longer and grow longer.”

If you would like to help fund more programs like this in the community, please donate to the IPCF Annual Campaign which funds the General Grants.

By Michele Evans, Grants & Communications Director