The Y’s summer camp program is designed to provide meaningful life experiences for children even when hurdles may make that journey a little tougher. For eight year-old Sophia Day, the Morris Community YMCA’s summer camp program did just that!
Sophia is a bundle of energy and one of her biggest strengths, according to her mom, Carley, is her glowing attitude that radiates toward others. Although Sophia was born with cerebral palsy, which does present some limitations, her friendliness and positive spirit is contagious.
“I first heard about camp through a flyer at Sophia’s school,” Carley said. “She had done some YMCA activities in the past, like going to the Galowich Family YMCA for swim lessons. She does have cerebral palsy so it’s sometimes hard for me to take her to places like the park. For her to be able to be involved in things with kids her age is very important to me. The Y offers her those activities.”
Before camp started, Carley discussed Sophia’s potential needs with Morris YMCA Youth and Family Director Sarah Porzel. Because Sophia uses a walker, Carley wanted to make sure that Y staff would be able to nurture her level of independence while she was attending camp.
“I didn’t have to make too many extra arrangements,” Porzel said. “We just wanted staff to be vigilant around the play area or stay back in case it took Sophia a little longer to get places.”
Carley noted she was grateful for the receptive nature of the staff.
“They were more than accommodating. One of the counselors had been an aid for her at the school she goes to. That was helpful,” she said.
And, her fellow campers and Y staff were just as thankful to have Sophia participating in daily activities.
“When we played dodgeball, Sophia was always right in the middle of the action. When we played gaga, she was right in the gaga pit. If Sophia wanted to play basketball, she’d join right in. She seemed to really enjoy her camp experiences,” Porzel said.
Led by Sophia’s example, Porzel said other campers developed the important traits of respect and generosity.
“I think the coolest part of her being in camp this summer was seeing how the kids rallied around her. She was one of the reasons camp was so awesome this year. Her fellow campers were always willing to lend a hand when she needed it,” Porzel said.
Carley said the relationships Sophia built made it tough to say goodbye when the summer ended.
“On more than one instance, four o’clock would roll around and sure enough she wouldn’t want to come home because she was having so much fun,” Carley said. “I was really pleased with the way it was organized. The weekly field trips were awesome. Sophia really enjoyed those.”Looking toward the future, Carley said she is excited to continue a relationship with the Y.
“Now that school has started, I’ll be looking to see what other programs the Y offers. Sophia really wants to be involved in more. She already can’t wait for camp next year,” Carley said.
Registration for the Y’s 2020 summer camp programs will open in March.