A South Florida father said the work of an evangelical Christian nonprofit, which offers camping experiences to disabled children and adults, has made a real impact on his daughter’s life.
“We appreciate all the work they are doing,” said Wayne Hocking. “Soleil had the best time I can ever remember. She literally did not stop smiling until she went to sleep.”
Special Touch Ministry offers five-day camp sessions, known as “Get Aways,” from May to September in 10 different states for people ages 10 to 70.
The cost of this year’s Florida session was $600 per person, while other locations ranged from $410 to $750. A caregiver can join one of the campers free of charge, and the camps can provide a caregiver as well. Additional family members can attend the camp for a discounted rate.
At the Florida sessions in Lake Wales — this year’s ended June 1 — the group sizes are normally between 65 to 80, said organizers, and include the family of those with disabilities.
During the day, the camp offers various activities, such as arts and crafts, dancing, field games and swimming.
“Each Get Away has its own fingerprint because of the region, but the basics are seen in all of them,” said the Rev. Joe Trementozzi, a coordinator for the Florida session.
The Florida Get Away had a ladies’ spa day as well as archery, a wall challenge and therapy llamas.
“Therapy llamas are like therapy dogs,” said the Rev. Ann Trementozzi, the other coordinator for Florida. “They’re trained to let the campers pet and walk them, and to take pictures too.”
The llamas lie down when a person in a wheelchair is next to them, so he or she can reach. The llamas bring joy and calmness to those with disabilities, she said.
On May 30, they had a talent show to showcase the campers’ talents and give them the experience of applause and recognition for self-confidence.
“They realize their own self-worth and value in who God created them to be, regardless of the disability they face,” said Ann Trementozzi.
In addition, the campers regularly attend religious services at a nearby chapel, with two services in the morning and one at night.
One of the day services is for those with physical disabilities and campers who are high functioning. This chapel also has a Bible study. The other service is for our campers who have developmental disabilities. It includes more music, participation and teaching.
At night, everyone is together and the service opens with a review of the day’s activities, contemporary Christian worship songs and then a message. There are prayers that focus on individuals’ personal requests.
“I have witnessed the positive changes servanthood ministry has on those with disabilities as they experience the love of God for them,” said Lori Bullington, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is a missionary associate for the camp. “The hard shell we as individuals with disabilities tend to build up begins to break.”