Outdoors for All is a program for people with disabilities to do activities outside in a safe environment. It’s the “largest nonprofit organizations providing year round instruction in outdoor recreation for people with physical, developmental, and sensory disabilities” (outdoorsforall.org).Over the summer I volunteer with one of their summer day camps for kids. It’s a really great opportunity and resource. Some of the activities include rock climbing, kayaking, urban camping, hiking, swimming, obstacle courses and more. They also have a winter program that goes skiing.
I learned a lot while volunteering there about some of the challenges families with children who have disabilities face. Most of the children who go to the camp come back every year and do it almost all summer long. Anyone can go to the camp although most of kids I worked with are children with Autistism or Down’s syndrome. Prior to volunteering with Outdoors for All I really had no real exposure to people developmental disabilities and I never realized how some of the everyday things I go though have a much greater impact on others, like being able to handle loud noises or even turning on the lights in a bathroom and hearing the fan go off. I felt like I gained so much and grew as a person from working with these kids. I became way more aware of how the things I say and do affect people and how to just be comfortable around others who are different from me. Once the campers grew accustomed to someone new they were so loving and caring. I just really appreciated how accepting everyone was at camp. Everyone was valued and loved for being exactly who they were. I wish we showed the same level of love and respect for people outside of camp so that others would have the chance to get to know these amazing kids. I had a lot of fun with them and I would highly recommend volunteering with Outdoors for All. For more information and how to register to volunteer go to http://www.outdoorsforall.org/index.html