Camp Freedom is the most anticipated weekend of the year for some campers.
“A lot of the campers show up dreading the end because they look forward to camp so much,” said Shine Ministry Associate Garett Wall. “The minute they get there, they’re like, ‘I don’t want it to end.’ We’re like, ‘Really, you just got out of your parents’ car.’”
“There’s one young man who will cry by the time he gets there because he knows it’s going to come to an end, and he knows he won’t get to do that until next year,” added Shine Ministry Leader Mary Tatum. “He anticipates it all year, and it’s so much fun for him.”
Camp Freedom is for anyone 10 or older with developmental or intellectual disabilities. It will be held Friday through Sunday, July 17-19, at Country Lake Christian Retreat in Underwood, Indiana.
Campers engage in outdoor activities such as archery, fishing, bonfires and swimming. Campers also spend time growing in faith.
Last year’s Camp Freedom had the largest attendance—116 campers and more than 100 trained volunteers—since the camp began in 2004.
Tatum said it’s her favorite event of the year.
“Camp Freedom is really my favorite thing to do,” Tatum said. “Shine is one night when you get to spend a little bit of time with a bunch of people, but at Camp Freedom, you really get to build those relationships. There are people who come year after year.”
Tatum shared a story of a young, blind woman who had her first encounter with a horse on the final day of camp.
“She had never even been close to a horse, so she was just in tears when she got to go up to the horse. She didn’t ride it, but she petted it,” Tatum said. “For her even getting that close is amazing. She had heard about horses, but she had never met a horse. So those are some of the cool moments.”
Campers range in age from 10 to 60, and some have never spent a night away from their parents. Each camper is paired with a volunteer who receives meals and housing for the weekend.
“They get a different kind of attention, one-on-one that’s not a family member and a type of a community that is built over three days that they normally don’t get to experience,” Wall said.
The cost is $175.