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Meet Samuel

Samuel is a shy, sweet 10-year-old boy and an outdoor enthusiast. Whether it’s horseback riding, exploring fields, or swimming, Samuel loves being outside in nature. In fact, he loves it so much, it was part of the reason his family moved to the country – so that they could have more space for Samuel and his siblings to explore.

“I call him a horse whisperer,” explains Samuel’s mother, Cynthia. “The ponies and our mule come straight to him in a way they don’t to other people.”

Like many other pre-teen boys, Samuel also likes Minecraft, reading on his Kindle, and enjoying other screen-related activities. “You don’t realize he has autism until you start interacting with him,” says Cynthia. “Samuel has so many talents – he was reading at age 2, and his siblings were so jealous – but communication is very difficult for him,” explains Cynthia.

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In their daily lives, one of the hardest things for Cynthia to manage for Samuel is his experience in school and other structured activities where there are one-size-fits-all expectations. “Samuel is so smart, but he can’t show it in the way schools want to see it,” Cynthia says.

But at SOAR365’s Summer Camp, everything is different.

“Samuel absolutely loves Summer Camp at Camp Baker, and so do we,” says Cynthia. Matt Hulcher, Director of Camp Baker, says that Samuel is a joy to be around all the time. “You never forget Samuel’s smile,” says Matt, as he recalls how much Samuel loves all the camp activities: paddle boating, canoeing, participating in the talent show, swimming, and – of course – horseback riding.

Since the late 1950s, SOAR365 has provided an amazing summer camp experience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Located on over 22 wooded acres, campers get to enjoy a best-in-class, traditional summer camp experience, including: horseback riding, arts and crafts, swimming, fishing, paddle boating, hiking, and even outdoor tent camping. Summer Camp typically runs (in non-COVID-19 times) from June to August, offering eight weeks of camp for adults and two weeks for children with the option of staying overnight or just attending day camp.

Cynthia explains that not only does Samuel have so much fun at Camp, he feels so comfortable and loved there. “I have no worries at all when Samuel is at Summer Camp! When Samuel is at school, I always worry about other kids being unkind to him, but at Camp, I don’t have a thing to worry about. I feel secure.”

In addition to the safe and welcoming environment, Cynthia loves Summer Camp at Camp Baker for the simple fact that it’s open to children with disabilities like Samuel. “Camp gives me relief that I’m giving him a good summer with fun experiences,” Cynthia says. She says that it’s hard all year round whenever she sees her other children go places and do things that Samuel isn’t invited to do.

Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.
And while Summer Camp at Camp Baker is – indeed – all fun and games, it’s also about growing and developing new skills. Cynthia notes that Samuel has learned to be open to new activities, better manage his frustration, and practice independence at Summer Camp.

By offering Summer Camp at Camp Baker, SOAR365 provides an invaluable support that Cynthia didn’t have access to before. Cynthia has a phrase she often uses: “If you’ve met one child with autism – then you’ve only met one child with autism – because every child with autism is different.” The staff at SOAR365 understand that and are pleased to work individually with Samuel, so he can thrive in his own, unique way.

As Samuel grows older, Cynthia realizes these challenges won’t disappear. That’s why she’s so grateful that SOAR365 will always be there for Samuel. She hopes that his experiences at Summer Camp at Camp Baker keep getting and better each year.

We can’t wait to see Samuel this summer!

To learn more about how you can support Summer Camp @ SOAR365 and make the summer camp experience possible for Samuel and other individuals with disabilities, click the button below.

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