What Did You Do This Summer?

Elizabeth Barlow helps brush a horse before it is prepped for riding.
Elizabeth Barlow helps brush a horse before it is prepped for riding.

Oswego, NY  – As the school year begins and children shares stories about what they did during the summer, many talk about their summer camp experience. For some children this would be impossible if it weren’t for camps with counselors that have special training and the desire to make memorable summer camp experiences for children with special needs.

ARISE at the Farm is one such camp. During a week in August, nine children and four of their siblings from Oswego County attended Day Camp at ARISE at the Farm (the Farm, as it is affectionately known). The Farm is an accessible, integrated, recreational facility located on a 76-acre working horse farm in Chittenango. It boasts a covered riding arena, petting zoo, accessible fishing pond, and a paved people path, among other attractions. Most important, all Farm programs are inclusive and welcome people of all abilities.

Every morning the children and a camp counselor boarded a bus that stopped in Oswego, Fulton, and Central Square to pick up participants. While on the first morning there was some hesitation on the part of the campers and their parents, by the time the bus returned that afternoon, a bunch of smiling children unloaded, raring to go back the next day.

The Farm’s campers have a variety of disabilities, but most have a diagnosis of Autism or a physical impairment that requires some one-to-one assistance from a camp counselor. Most counselors are older youth or college students who assist the Farm’s staff in providing integrated programs. They are trained and have experience engaging youth with sensory issues, communication challenges, and physical disabilities. The Farm also has a nurse on site during camps to attend to personal and medical needs.

Camp mornings were spent engaging in activities that each child selected. While one group spent time in the petting zoo, caring for chickens, rabbits, horses, and pigs, another group played games, and a third group walked or rode bikes on the paved path. Some of the bikes use hand pedals to give those who lack leg strength the opportunity to participate.

After lunch, the campers began their favorite activity, horseback riding. After brushing and getting the horses ready, campers climbed up and went for a ride. They were assisted by camp counselors throughout the ride to ensure their safety.

When you ask the campers, what did you like best about your experience? They answer, riding! But a close second is making new friends and getting the chance to participate in recreational activities with everyone else. For more information, please contact Sabine Ingerson at ARISE at 342-4088 ext. 210.