Have you ever stopped to think about how different your life would be if you were born with an intellectual disability? Would you have the same friends? Would you be able to play sports, and have the same career?
KX News introduces you to a special camp and a haven for North Dakotans with learning disabilities.
Bismarck camper Randi Schlecht shares, “I can have friends at home too, but it’s like they don’t want to hang out with me half the time and what not. But it’s like, I have to do something for me because I’m getting tired of that, you know.”
Camp Recreation happens in Richardton, but it’s open to all of southwest and central North Dakota. One of the Directors tells us, many of the counselors have gone on to choose a career path of helping others, thanks to the time they’ve spent here.
It started back in 1975 as a first of its kind in the state, and it’s been a hit ever since.
Schlecht adds, “I’ve made some good friends already so far, the past three days straight, and it’s pretty awesome, I think.”
Another Bismarck camper Caun Fossum emphasizes, “Crafts and music…”
Not only do campers gain experiences they don’t have access to the rest of the year, but counselors learn how to help, and bond with the campers. The result is lasting friendships.
Counselor and high school senior Isaiah Maertens shares, “One camper, he’s continuously telling us he doesn’t want to go home. I mean he lives for this all year.”
Campers and counselors alike range from young teenagers to seniors.
Maertens adds, “It’s just an amazing thing for people with disabilities to be able to get together, and have one-on-one time with counselors, I mean really enjoy it. Because counselors who come here really enjoy the campers.”
This is not Kathleen Messer’s first time at Camp.
The Bismarck camper explains, “Sometimes it’s kind of hard, sometimes it’s okay.”
Messer says even walking around is tough most days.
She shares, “I had a new kidney put into me a couple of years ago, and it’s getting harder and harder, and harder.”
But the week in Richardton is a nice escape.
Schlecht explains, “I’m not much different than anybody else. I’m still a human being just like everybody else, you know.”
Camp Directors want to send out a big thank you to all who have sponsored and volunteered for the camp. None of it would be possible without all the help.