A Summer Camp for AJ
When Jessica Witherspoon and her husband arrived to pick up their son AJ from Camp Riley last summer, he ran straight to them, gave them a huge hug, and then grabbed their hands to excitedly show off his cabin, his bed, his friends. “As much as he could tell us, he was sharing. He just kept talking and talking. We could tell from his body language and overall joy that he really enjoyed himself at camp,” Jessica recalled.
Since 1955, Camp Riley has been empowering children with physical and cognitive diagnoses by providing life-changing experiences in a camp environment tailored to their individual needs. Before AJ was born, Jessica was already known in her community for helping parents navigate through the journey of parenting a child with disabilities. In her work, she had always recommended Camp Riley to the families she served. When AJ was born with unexpected intellectual and developmental disabilities along with complex medical needs, she wasn’t sure anyone would be able to handle his specific conditions.
The family, who lives in northwest Indiana, doesn’t have a local support system, so Jessica and her husband have always handled all of AJ’s daily care. They slowly built a village of therapists and doctors. Jessica knew that AJ was ready to build friendships, and she needed to start learning to let go. The fear of sending your child into the world is a familiar one for all parents, but it is especially intense and heightened for parents of children with disabilities. Camp Riley gave AJ some independence and his parents a welcomed respite.
Another full and exciting Camp Riley season will kick off in a couple of months. Camp operates at Bradford Woods and is made possible through the support of Riley Children’s Foundation. Staff from Riley Children’s Health provide 24-hour medical coverage, including resident physicians, nurses, and a pharmacy team. Thanks to the generosity of Riley Children’s Foundation donors, no camper is turned away due to financial need.
“I would encourage parents to take a tour of Camp Riley or have a phone call with staff to understand the dynamic and their training,” Jessica said. “Contrary to popular belief, just because a child has a disability does not mean that they can’t have the age-old camp experience. They may need accommodations or modifications, but they still deserve to have the opportunity. They are worthy!”
Your gifts to Riley Children's Foundation make it possible for Camp Riley to offer life-changing experiences to children with physical and cognitive diagnoses.
There are many opportunities for you to help Camp Riley such as:
- Making a gift
- Endowing a campership
- Adding Camp Riley to your estate plans
To make a gift to Camp Riley online, make sure to mark "Camp Riley" as your program of preference.