The Day Camp Chronicles Part 1: A Special Boy

There is a place for everyone.

Colin is like any other kid in the summertime.  He wants to swim, play, make friends and have fun.  But Colin isn’t just any other kid.

“The kids get excited to help him out,” says Catherine Woitena of the Thelma Ley Anderson Family YMCA.  “Today a camper named Mary was excited to walk him in from outside.”

Colin on the play ground at the Thelma Ley Anderson YMCA Day Camp

Colin on the playground at the Thelma Ley Anderson YMCA Day Camp

Colin has Down syndrome.

“It is often really difficult to find good accommodations for children with special needs,” Dr. Kathy Liscum, Colin’s mom, admitted.

But the YMCA did not see the difficulty.

“He has a wonderful personality and loves to do puzzles and swim at day camp,” Woitena says.  “Yesterday I felt I had a million things to do but just taking a few minutes to go to day camp, see the kids and take some time to remember why I love my job makes all the difference in the world. Colin does that for me every time I see him.”

“The Thelma Ley Anderson YMCA in Alvin bent over backwards to accommodate Colin,” added Kim Christensen, Colin’s dad. “So often, when searching for a place where Colin can have a good time during the summer, we become so discouraged.  As we continued to search, it seemed like everything we checked out led to a dead-end,” he says.

Staff at all YMCAs meet with parents of children with special needs before enrolling in programs to help assess whether they can accommodate specific situations.

Colin poses with Ollie the Otter, Moody Gardens' mascot

Colin poses with Ollie the Otter, Moody Gardens’ mascot, during a recent YMCA Day Camp field trip

Summer camp staff all quickly admit that 11 year-old Colin is a joy to be around. “He always has a smile on his face, which puts a smile on our face,” said Woitena. “He gives more to our staff than we could possibly ever give back to him. He is phenomenal to watch with the other campers. Those campers want him to be as successful as the staff does,” she said.

This is the first in a three-part series about day camp.  Coming next, “A Day in the Life of a Day Camp Counselor,” followed by “A Day in the Life of a Day Camper.”

Click here to learn more about YMCA Day Camp.

Thanks to the Alvin Sun Advertiser for contributing to this post.

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