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The happiest place in the world is Special Camps! Just ask my family. The camp provides opportunities for kids and adults with intellectual disabilities to experience new activities, form friendships, increase independence and build self-esteem in week long overnight camps. Camp encourages the development of social skills through interactive activities alongside a teen volunteer in a structured setting, under adult supervision. Parties every evening include hayrides, bingo, campfire songs, dancing, riding and grooming horses and more.

My husband, Jack, and I have been volunteering at the camp for many years. This year was the 25 th Anniversary of the camp. I was reluctant at first to volunteer not knowing what was expected of me. Ifound out that the expectation was to respect our campers and keep them safe. The unexpected was how we all thrive in an atmosphere of fun and happiness. My goal is to help make this the best week for our campers who count the days until next year’s camp. We come together as a family and continue to grow by our experiences.

Our Special Camps experiences have boomed since our grandchildren began volunteering at the camp. We love watching them interact with the campers and It has provided them with growth and understanding. Seven of our grandchildren have volunteered and they always look forward to coming back. Two of our grandchildren are majoring in Special Education in college. I believe that Special Camps opened the door to their career fields. The camp spirit gets into your heart and you want to come back. To give you an example of coming back, my friend, Andy, has been volunteering since he was thirteen years old. He is now a fireman in his thirties and still uses a week’s vacation to volunteer at Special Camps.

Our family has been blessed by our Special Camps experiences and we extend an invitation to others to join us. If you know of any intellectually challenged individual who would benefit from this camp experience go to I This is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships for campers in need. I would also encourage you to volunteer and/or make a donation to Special Camps.

– Mary Lou Kozak, Medical Sept, SSCO, Wheaton

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