By Bonni Sundberg
Kiwanis Club of Kirkland
There is a chill in the air and the days are getting shorter. School buses are back on the roads and the sounds of children laughing on the play grounds can be heard all around. Yes, school has started for another year.
However, to a group of about 90 children in the Greater Puget Sound Area, the smiles are still on their faces and the love is still felt in their hearts from the experience they had at “camp”. These are the kids of Kiwanis Camp Casey. This camp is a special place for children with physical disabilities with diagnosis labels such as cerebral palsy, spin bifida, congenital limb disorders or childhood spinal cord injuries. These children between the ages of 6-17 with these disabilities have the opportunity to spend a week with other kids with disabilities, being able to “just be themselves” and make friends that will last a lifetime. For them, it is a week to engage in typical summer activities – something many of these kids don’t have the opportunity to do except at this camp.
There are counselors assigned to assist the campers and there is always a lot of one on one time and attention given to any special needs of these kids. These counselors are young people ages of 16 – 25. Many of them have chosen their lifetime careers based on the experiences they have had at Camp Casey. Some of them return year after year to be part of this heartwarming experience. After hearing the campers and the volunteers talk about camp, it is easy to see what a truly amazing adventure this is for everyone. Some of the campers have attended numerous times and they tell how this camp has changed their lives and how they look forward to it all year. It is staffed with nurses, counselors, cooks and other volunteers – all donating their time to be with these kids during their week at camp.
Barb Williams has been the director of Camp Casey for 6 years and is also a member of NC Kiwanis Club. She does an amazing job of overseeing all aspects of the camp organization and administration. She first volunteered at Camp Casey in her teen years through her high school Key Club. She met her husband, Paul, while volunteering and both give credit to Camp Casey for helping them select their career paths. Both of their children were counselors in their teens and now volunteer each year. Barb says, “We work under the auspice of the Kiwanis International Mission Statement: “Serving the Children of the World” and Kiwanis Camp Casey exemplifies the very best of Kiwanis. It provides an incredible, life changing week for the campers and their families. Most of our campers are not able to experience typical overnight camps. Kiwanis Camp Casey allows an incredibly fun, life changing experience and along the way our campers learn confidence, independence, improved communications and make lifelong friends. Parents are given a much needed respite and the opportunity to watch their child bloom as a result of the Camp Casey experience.”
In the midst of all the excitement at “camp” you will find members of the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland as part of the volunteer family. The KCK has participated at the camp for the past 7 years doing a variety of volunteer jobs. There are about 8 volunteers from KCK that help out each year. Mark Shinstrom, past president of KCK says, “It is a wonderful experience to interact with these kids, because that is what it is all about – the kids.”
If you would like more information about Kiwanis Club of Kirkland, contact Matt Gregory, Secretary at (206) 851-5585 or visit the website at www.Kirkland.Kiwanis.org.
Kiwanis Camp Casey is located on Whidbey Island and is owned by Seattle Pacific University (SPU). It is sponsored and partially funded by the North Central Kiwanis Club, Seattle which also oversees all fundraising. This camp is fully funded so it is free of charge to these kids and has been for 75 years. This is due to the generosity of the NC Kiwanis Club, Seattle, its donors, foundation grants and employee matching funds. The camp leadership team is responsible for raising an average of $45,000 annually to keep the camp running. This covers renting the facility from SPU, food, transportation, insurance for that year, along with other expenses. In addition to the funds the club receives from its “community”, they also sponsor a yearly dinner/auction. This year it will be held on Nov. 16. The theme will be “A Night of Mardis Gras and together with dinner and an auction, there will be pictures and testimonials from the campers and their families.
If you would like more information about the dinner/auction, volunteering or how to make a donation to Camp Casey, please visit their website at www.campcasey.org.