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Montreal Families

Summer camp for special children

Montreal mom Catherine Swail had many of the usual concerns when she sent her then 6-year-old son Evan away to a sleepover camp last year. She wondered if he would be homesick and if he’d enjoy the food and all the activities. But her worries extended to his day-to-day care as well. As a child with special needs, Evan requires assistance with things like dressing and eating.

Although Evan was going to a camp that is specifically adapted to children will all kinds of special needs, Swail remained unsure right up until the moment the family arrived at camp.

“They greeted us in such a caring and professional manner; I knew then that he was in capable hands,” says Swail, whose son attended Camp Yaldei run by the Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre.

With a ratio of 1 camper per counsellor and a host of therapists and specialists on hand to help, Swail realized that Evan was going to get all the help he needed and have a great time.

And she was right. Evan loved swimming, riding in a paddleboat and playing on the adapted equipment in the playground.

At their home in Pointe Claire, Swail and her husband Tim also had time to focus more on their daughter Hanna, 12. “It was such a good experience, for all the family,” Swail said. “It was respite for us, but also a great time for Evan,” she says, adding that the camp staff outdid themselves in caring for her child. “I often say that the camp is run by special people
for special kids.”

For loving families like the Swails who are raising children with special needs, the idea of sending them to a camp may seem difficult, given the child’s particular needs and challenges. But several camps in and around Montreal welcome these children with programs and sites adapted to them. However, it’s important for families to call to discuss their particular child’s situation as well as to get information on costs. To help as many families as possible, camps may offer sliding scale fees or some kind of subsidy.

The following is a list of a few of the camps that either integrate kids with special needs into their regular programs or have camps specifically for kids with disabilities.

For a complete list of both special needs day camps and sleepover (residential) camps in Quebec and Ontario, see our resource listings.

YMCAs of Québec

The YMCAs nine centres around Montreal work hard to integrate children with special needs at their day camps and offer them a range of programs including swimming, arts and crafts and games. However, not all of the Ys have adapted equipment and facilities so check with the one nearest you.

Ages: 2-17 years, depending on the centre
Dates: June 29-Aug. 27, 2010, depending on the centre
Information: Visit www.ymcaquebec.org for the address and telephone number of the centre nearest you.

Camp Yaldei

Run by the Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre, which is based in N.D.G., this Jewish, overnight camp offers a host of activities from boating to nature trails. The camp is located
in the Laurentians.

Ages: 5 and up
Dates: June 29-July 19, July 21-Aug. 9 or June 29-Aug. 9, 2010.
Information: Call (514) 279-3666, ext. 249 or visit www.yaldei.org.

Camp Massawippi

Run by the MAB-MacKay Rehabilitation Centre based in Montreal, this camp in Ayer’s Cliff, QC offers a site adapted to the needs of those with physical, auditory or visual impairments and offers a host of traditional camp activities.

Ages: 6-30
Dates: June 28-July 9 (ages 13-30), July 12-23 (ages 6-30) July 26-Aug. 6 (ages 13-10) and Aug. 9-14 (ages 6-30), 2010.
Information: Call (514) 489-8201, ext. 2028 or visit www.mabmackay.ca.

YM-YWHA Day Camps

At the centre at 5400 Westbury Ave. in Montreal, children ages 4-12 are integrated into the Friendly Faces Day camp and enjoy a range of traditional camp activities. There is also a camp called Manhigim for teenagers, which includes morning activities focused on acquiring life-skills like taking the metro and budgeting and then afternoons filled with games, sports, and swimming.

Ages: 4 & up
Dates: June 28-Aug. 20, 2010
Information: Call (514) 737-6551 or visit www.ymywha.com.

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