Tag Archives: Camp Buckaroo

Nothing “Dull” About Camp

Easter Seals Greater Houston hosts several camps throughout the Greater Houston area and at Camp For All in Burton, Texas every summer. These camps serve children with disabilities, some of which are medically fragile, and their siblings. The days are filled with inclusive, accessible activities that all the children and volunteers enjoy. The following was written by one of our amazing 2018 summer camp interns.

ConleeHi my name is Conlee Dull and I go to Memorial High School. This will be my 5th year volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston specifically their summer Camps and Recreation Program. I think by far one of my favorite memories from camp is the first time I ever gave a camper an award. Just to see the smile light up on their face and how proud their family was honestly made everything I did with my camper even more rewarding. Through volunteering I have learned that people with disabilities are the same as any other kids and they just want to have a good time without being judged just as any other kid would. Through volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp and Recreation Program I have really developed a passion of working with people with special needs and I can’t wait to see how much it grows this summer when I intern!

conlee at most

Conlee Dull, Summer Camps and Recreation Intern, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

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Robert’s Road Warriors

Join Easter Seals Greater Houston and Chairmen Katherine and Bob Dowdell on Saturday, April 9th for the 5th Annual Family Fun Walk, Walk With Me, at the Houston Zoo.  The Dowdell’s, alongside their team, Robert’s Road Warriors, are walking to support their 19 year old son Robert who struggles with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“Robert was first diagnosed with cataracts and then cerebral palsy at the age of 14 months.  Fortunately, he was able to participate in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) – physical, occupational and speech therapyECI offers a jump start for children with delayed developmental issues like Robert. While many of those years were mixed with hardships and challenges, Easter Seals was a constant support throughout. Easter Seals was with our family every step of the way to make Robert’s “disability” seem more like a “different ABILITY”.

Robert attended his first Easter Seals Camp when he was seven years old.  smiles robert dowdellHe attended Camp Buckaroo, a summer day camp for kids with special needs, and Camp Smiles, a week long spend-the-night camp in Burton, Texas.  Robert had never spent the night away from home, but I packed up his walker, wheelchair and orthotics for his adventure.  At camp, Robert was encouraged to try new things he never dreamed he could do, as he needed assistance with many everyday tasks. He did all the normal camp things; horseback riding, zip line, fishing, shot archery, sang karaoke, and danced and – for the first time in his life, he like a “normal” kid. He was loved for who he was, just as he was.  At the end of each camp session, Robert would cry when he saw we were there to pick him up…he didn’t want to leave!

????????????????????????????????????At age 15, Robert attended Camp Most. Camp Most is focused less on activities and more on building socialization skills in teens.  Robert learned important things like how to start a conversation, how to tell people about his disability, and how to determine his strengths to build a resume.  Robert has learned how to set goals.  His goals for 2016 include: to do his BEST in everything that he CAN do, to be a better brother to his sister, Katie and to be independent.  Easter Seals Camps have proven to be some of the most transformative events in Robert’s life to date.

Community support of Walk With Me is a blessing to many families in the greater Houston area – one that the Dowdell Family can personally attest to. Easter Seals provides life-changing services to people of all ages with all types of disabilities.  Thanks to Easter Seals, Robert is strong, happy, perseverant and optimistic about his bright future, and we are confident that Easter Seals will continue to help him become more self-reliant and prepare him for his future. Please consider supporting Walk With Me to guarantee services for Robert and other Houstonians with disabilities to help them discover their potential and hope for limitless possibilities!”

-Katherine Taylor Dowdell
Walk With Me Chair, Proud mother of Katie (22) and Robert (19) and grateful beneficiary of Easter Seals Greater Houston programs

Katherine and Robert DowdellMore About Walk With Me: 
Walk With Me is a 5K or shorter Family Fun Walk that helps raise awareness and resources for programs of Easter Seals, which help children and adults living with all types of disabilities. For more information contact Madison Shofner at 713-838-9050×304 or mshofner@eastersealshouston.org or visit our event website, click here!

More About the Dowdell Family:
Robert lives in Briargrove Park with his family.  His father, Bob, is an executive with Prosperity Bank and his mother, Katherine, is a retired banker and fundraiser.  Katherine serves on the Board of Directors for Easter Seals and Bob was instrumental in gaining the support of Prosperity Bank, the Title Sponsor for this year’s Walk With Me event.  Robert’s big sister, Katie, is a senior at Louisiana State University.  Robert is a senior at Westside High School.  He is active in Best Buddies Texas, Capernaum-a Young Life group for special needs kids, and Easter Seals Camp Most.

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PNO = R&R

My husband, Doug, and I welcomed our wonderful son, Duncan, after our 39th birthdays. Having met at 21, we’d spent the better part of two decades dining at the best “cheap eats” in Houston, taking weekend jaunts in Texas, exercising daily, and enjoying the occasional happy hour. Quite simply, we appreciated the benefits of living as DINKS (double-income, no kids).

Dec 2015 Respite blog PNO 1So along came our beautiful baby. Overnight, our lives transformed in rewarding and challenging ways I never could have imagined. Of course, this is true for any new parent, but there exists an additional anxiety, concern and effort when you care for a child with special needs. Doctors’ appointments, therapy, testing, tutoring, special-ed meetings, financial challenges, and countless hours of online research: It’s just plain exhausting.

So, when we heard about the Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program, Parents’ Night Out, we were cautiously optimistic.  We were happily surprised at its affordability: $10 for four hours of babysitting by Easter Seals’ skilled volunteers and staff.  But, we know our son. He is fearful of new situations, despite having attended summer camps with Easter Seals Greater Houston. Bless his heart, he is visually impaired, has epilepsy and CP, so who could blame him?Dec 2015 Respite blog PNO 2

Our concerns were unfounded and he made fast friends at Parents’ Night Out. The volunteers exemplify patience and understanding, each offering a weekend night to care for our son, later telling us how much they enjoy Duncan!  Six months later, he asks to attend the “babysitting place” nearly every Friday night.  Doug and I have actually seen three movies and been out to dinner twice during the last six weeks! That reconnection is critical with the added stress of our days.

From respite for caregivers to summer camps and fun activities for children, Easter Seals is a blessing for thousands of people in the Greater Houston area. And the Graham family is proof of that.

-Catherine Graham, Respite Program client parent

For more about Easter Seals‘ Care Giving Services, click here.
For more about Easter Seals’ Camps and Recreation, click here.

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From Bloom Where You’re Planted – “Life and Times of the Kikuchi Girls”

Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Camp BuckarooThat week has been the highlight of the summer for Keags and Rys! kikuchi 3They were lucky enough to spend the last 5 days having non-stop fun at Camp Buckaroo put on by Easter Seals. It was such an incredible camp, run by incredible people for kids with special needs and their siblings. 

Everyday from 10-3 the girls were doted on and entertained with exciting stuff at the gorgeous and ginormous Woodlands United Methodist Church. Everyday they had story time, song and dance time, games, lunch, a craft and special guests. They also played on the awesome playground, did a scavenger hunt and built a giant fort. The special guests were a music therapist with tons of instruments, a dancer, the snake man with 8 snakes, Crocodile encounter with small alligators and crocodiles, Nature Discovery Center with turtles, lizards and exotic plants, fireman with their truck, a policeman with his car, and a clown!kikuchi 2They each had a college age buddy to help them throughout the week. Riley’s was Brooklyn and Keagan’s was Hallie. They were both so sweet and so helpful! There were also about 12 other cute kids there and a bunch of awesome volunteers, interns and Easter Seals employees. And I mean it when I say they were awesome! On day 1 I didn’t pack an extra set of clothes for Riley and her diaper leaked. Well they are so amazing that they ran to Target to buy her shorts because they didn’t want to bother me!!After the first day we got in the car and Keagan said “mommy I didn’t like it. I LOVED it!” She also told me all about her friend Noah and this silly momma asked her “is Noah special needs or a sibling?” Well shame on me for asking and thank heavens I have a smart daughter that set me straight! Keagan responded “mommy I don’t know! And I don’t care!” Out of the mouths of babes!

kikuchi 1On the last day of camp there was an awards ceremony. Keagan was presented with the “Most Couragous Dancing Queen” award for doing the Whip in front of the whole camp! And Riley received the “Star Performer” award for dancing, smiling and being happy all week. They also received their T-shirts and cute scrapbooks that they made with all their pictures. Some of which I had to take a picture of here to include on the blog.

Camp Buckaroo will definitely be our yearly summer tradition now! All three of us will count down til next year!

About us: I’m the divorced single mom of my darling twin girls Keagan and Riley. Keagan is a spunky, smart and fun girl who keeps life exciting. And Riley is Special Needs with an emphasis on special! She has many medical challenges, 19 diagnoses’s in fact, including Cerebral Palsy, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Polymicrogyria, Epilepsy and Asthma. But she is one incredible girl-they both are! I think I’m the luckiest mom in the world! Follow me here – http://bloomwhere.blogspot.com/

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Camp Buckaroo – Benefits Aren’t Just for the Campers!

2015 Camp Blog pic 1Camp Buckaroo, Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s day camp, is in full swing and we are having a blast!  Camp is great for the campers because it’s filled with love and acceptance.  One mom said that camp is the only place where her child, who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound and nonverbal, feels like a regular kid.  “She tends to be a daredevil and has an amazing spirit to try new things, and at camp she and her attitude are celebrated!”

The impact of Easter Seals camp isn’t limited to the campers though.  Parents often struggle to find quality camps for children with disabilities at affordable rates.  Many parents talked about extensive medical costs, and changes in primary insurance that have made deductibles skyrocket; Camp Buckaroo‘s scholarships are a true blessing for these families. And we couldn’t offer those scholarships without community support!2015 camp at spca campers

Our volunteers are also relishing in the joy of our summer camps.  This veteran volunteer said it best: I’ve realized over the years what a positive influence a volunteer can be to a camper.  It’s amazing to witness a camper grow and become more confident, all because a volunteer motivates them and showers them with support.  Buckaroo makes a huge impact on everyone involved!”

Special thanks to National Charity League Bayou Village Chapter, The Amerigroup Foundation, The George Foundation, United Way Greater Houston and United Way Montgomery County for making our work possible!

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Almost November …National Caregiver Month, A Celebration Of All Caregivers We Know!

heather jo 2heather jo 1Heather Jo has attended ESGH Camp Smiles overnight camp since she was 5.  It was such a great experience for her and for us as caregivers.  It gave her an opportunity to make lasting friends and to be independent for a short period of time.  She learned many things that she brought home and used in daily living skills.    The volunteers and staff at ESGH and Camp Smiles taught me how important it was for Heather Jo to go away to camp and because of it, today I advocate to other parents and caregivers the importance of camp. It gives the families much-needed respite and camp is a huge confidence builder for the campers.  I am forever grateful for ESGH and the volunteers for the hard work they put into making camp possible.  Attached are a few pics from Camp Smiles and I think it reflects the great work ESGH does there. heather jo 4 Also, a couple of pics of Heather Jo as we are on our way to camp.  You can see the joy in her face just knowing she is able to go to camp another year, all because of Easter Seals Greater Houston. I am also grateful to them for offering case management services for our CLASS program.  Cindy (our case manager) is so helpful.  She offers information when I need it. She researches, calls us on a regular basis to see how Heather Jo is doing and always shares conferences and activities she has learned about.  She returns phone calls promptly, which is very important for a Case manager.  When we have our heather jo 3quarterly meeting, she is well prepared with the paper work and any new information she feels could be beneficial to our case. I cannot stress enough the importance of a Case manager going beyond what I feel is necessary to a case and that is what she does.  She is very informative and up to date on all the latest laws and rules.  I think this reflects the caring attitude of Easter Seals Greater Houston and their willingness to support their case managers..  We are grateful for Easter Seals Greater Houston and Cindy and refer their services at every possible moment. Thank you, Mrs. Fredia Bassham and Heather Jo

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Applause, Applause for Betsy, our resident “Camp Queen”!

Betsy Wechter, Program Coordinator for Camps and our Adult Program, recently received the Don Warren Award, which honors Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Employee of the Year.  The award was named for Don Warren, a generous board member and prolific volunteer for Easter Seals Greater Houston.  Mr. Warren embodied the spirit of giving, and Betsy truly lives up to his legacy! 2013 don warren with betsy

Betsy received the Don Warren Award this past December at the Holiday Employee Luncheon, which was generously underwritten by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Board of Directors.  Betsy’s supervisor, Christine Ellery, said these words about Betsy:

The very first time I met Betsy – she was maybe 17 or 18 years old and had come into Houston all the way from Red Oak, up in Dallas, to attend the Camp Smiles orientation. Right then I was impressed with her – and her mom and grandmother who had driven her. I thought – now that’s some kind of commitment to drive all the way down here just for orientation – either that or those are some good sales at the Galleria that her mom and grandma came all the way down for!

After that first summer, Betsy came back every year to volunteer at Camp Smiles, something like six or seven years straight. I remember when she was about to graduate from A&M, we were having this chat about what she was going to do next. I remember telling her what a great place Easter Seals – United Cerebral Palsy at the time – was to work for, that all these different professions came together here, that we saw these amazing kids daily. She said, “Yeah, maybe I could work there one day…”

CIMG3267Now it would take a couple more years until Betsy got on Easter Seals’ payroll, but in the short time she’s been here what a difference she has made! Camps Buckaroo and Camp Smiles are bigger and their curriculums are richer – kids still fish and swim every day, but they also learn about advocating for themselves and preparing for life – college and work – without mom and dad. Our clients in the Adult Program are getting lessons in transition that they weren’t offered 30 years ago when they were in school, and she’s giving them the confidence and tools they need to make friends and build community.

But it’s the personal stories, the quiet one-on-one’s Betsy has with individuals, the ones where there are no big thank you’s at the end – that strike me the most. Betsy goes out of her way to show the adults that they are capable, and through her extraordinary generosity she lets the adults know that they are not alone. Betsy is a mentor and a friend to our campers, and she loves them and she challenges them. There are so many campers whose greatest memories in life were made with Betsy by their side.

For me, Betsy’s legacy will be that she teaches people, with and without disabilities, that people with disabilities bring value to our world. Betsy is without a doubt one of the finest examples of good I have ever known.

Please help me congratulate Betsy for winning this year’s Don Warren Award!

You too can help congratulate Betsy for winning the Don Warren Award! Please consider joining Betsy’s Walk With Me team (All About Camps!)or making a donation to Easter Seals Greater Houston in Betsy’s honor.

Christine Reyes Ellery, Camp Counseling & Case Management Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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