ROCKPORT, Tx — Summer camp is where you swim, kayak, and fish all while making lifelong friends.
For kids confined to wheelchairs or living with disabilities, activities like this aren't always accessible. Camp Aranzazu in Rockport makes it possible for everyone to enjoy summer camp.
The camp opened its doors in 2006 for that very reason, to help kids be kids despite their disabilities.
For many kids, summer camp is a rite of passage. But not everyone gets the chance to go, especially children with disabilities.
“We have invested a lot of money in making sure this place, where a child, regardless of what challenges they may face, they can do anything they want to here,” said President of Camp Aranzazu Virginia Ballard.
This non-profit camp site, that sits on 104 acres in Rockport, wants to make sure that kids in wheelchairs and with other special needs get that summer camp experience.
“It is especially gratifying to take it back where we started, that so many of these kids would never have this experience if it weren’t for Camp Aranzazu. This summer we will serve almost 950 children," Ballard said. "They come from all over Texas. Twenty-two different non-profit organizations bring their children with developmental disabilities, chronic illness, special needs, here to camp, and we are almost full every day.”
“I thought it was going to be fun. I think it was more fun than I actually thought,” said camper Joshua Vela.
Kids have their own individual needs, but teaching special needs kids poses its own set of challenges.
“For them to have that feeling, that sense of sort of not being different or apart and also make that connection with other kids who are facing those same challenges," Ballard said. "They build a social support network that lasts long after they leave camp, and that is invaluable."
Thanks to the community of many caring people, these kids with special needs always have a place to enjoy their summers.
“We try to keep the cost as low as we possibly can. So we charge anywhere from a third to half of the actual cost, and go out and raise the rest of the money from the communities." Ballard said. "This year we will go out and we need to raise about 1.3 million dollars. We do raise money all over Texas, and we appreciate the support we have received from the community,”
For many of these kids at Camp Aranzazu, healing doesn’t only happen in hospitals.