April 27, 2018

Camp Little Giant, a place where people with disabilities ‘can do anything’

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Ann Conner had heard great things about Camp Little Giant but was a bit nervous on her first visit to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s summer camp for children and adults of varying abilities and disabilities. Her apprehension dissolved instantly as she found friendships, fun, and an experience like none other.

“Camp Little Giant is just a place full of new friendships and being able to be myself and be around those like me that have disabilities,” the Du Quoin woman said, noting that she’s returned every year since 2000. “It’s somewhere where I can go and have fun and relax for a week or two.”

Complete summer camp experience, specially adapted

A true summer camp experience, the therapeutic recreation camp features swimming, fishing, boating, arts and crafts, music, dancing, boat rides, skits, bowling, sports and games, dances, campfire activities, nature hikes and much more. Conner enjoys singing at the annual talent show – usually a country song – but her favorite activity is the horseback riding. Thanks to special equipment, Conner’s spina bifida isn’t an obstacle when it comes to getting atop a saddle or doing anything else she wants to do at Camp Little Giant.

“The staff are the greatest. They put their hearts and their all into this camp. They find different ways to help all of us do what we want to do. However they can get you into the activity, they do it,” Conner said. “And they make sure you’re having a good time.”

Disabilities almost disappear

Camp participants range from the age of eight to 88 – perhaps even older – and their disabilities are also quite diverse, from autism to cerebral palsy, from spina bifida to ADHD. Regardless, the camp staff works hard to ensure everyone enjoys a true summer camp experience in the camp known worldwide as the place where participants “can do.”
“The sense of confidence I feel … I go there and I feel like I really don’t have a disability. I feel like somebody that has gone to a place where I can hang out for a week, do fun things, just relax and be around my friends. I kind of forget at times I have a disability,” Conner said. “They don’t look at campers as people with disabilities. They just look at us as people. For people with a disability, to be treated like you don’t have a disability means a lot.”

Registration now underway

Registrations are now being accepted for the summer 2018 Camp Little Giant sessions.

One of the first such camps in the nation, Camp Little Giant has since 1952 provided people a chance to see what they are capable of in a confidence-boosting way.

The camp staff members are specially trained and there is a nursing staff on-site 24/7 during the camps to handle all medical needs, including the dispensing of medicine, as needed.

Conner is already anxiously anticipating going to camp this summer
“I have so many special memories of camp and I’ve met so many people there that I consider not just friends, but family. It really is like a big family. I get to go see my summer family,” Conner said, noting that she stays in touch with campers and camp staff alike throughout the year, but can’t wait to see everyone in person.

Numerous specialized sessions

There are four different camps, and multiple sessions of nearly all of the different types of camps are planned. Here’s the line-up, including dates and who each camp is for:

  • Camp Olympia – for adults ages 21 and older who have high care needs, low mobility, or who use a wheelchair.
  • Camp Olympia I is June 10-15.
  • Camp Olympia II is June 10-22.
  • Camp Traditions – for adults ages 21 and older who have physical, cognitive and/or developmental disabilities.
  • Camp Traditions II (this is the first Traditions camp) is June 17-29.
  • Camp Traditions III is June 24-29.
  • Camp Traditions IV is July 8-13.
  • Camp Shawnee – for youths ages 8-21 who have physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities.
  • Camp Shawnee I is July 15-20.
  • Camp Shawnee II is July 15-27.
  • Camp Shawnee III is July 22-27.
  • Dyna Camp – for youths ages 8-19 who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and/or attention deficit disorder, July 29-Aug. 4.

Although all are typically overnight camps, day camp arrangements are available.

Costs vary

The pricing varies, depending upon the length of the camp and the camper’s care needs.

If the camper requires one-to-one care and supervision, the cost is

  • $1,000 for a 6-day camp.
  • $1,200 for Dyna Camp.
  • $2,100 for the 13-day session.

Pricing for campers who require less care and supervision is

  • $550 for six-day camp.
  • $650 for Dyna Camp.
  • $1,200 for a 13-day camp.

Registration details are online        

Find all of the camp details online at http://ton.siu.edu/camps-and-retreats/camp-little-giant/. Participants will need a physical within a year of the date their camp begins and must also submit registration and assumption-of-risk forms along with a nonrefundable $100 deposit.

The website enables people to register completely via online and email submissions or forms can be printed, completed and submitted by mail or email.