Following a successful inaugural session in 2016, Donovan’s Kids Camp, a free, weeklong overnight camping experience for children of military personnel and those with amputations, spina bifida and other limb differences, is making its return this summer. Scheduled to take place Aug. 6-11, 2017 at the Akron Rotary Camp for Children with Special Needs, the camp will provide children ages 8-14 with the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, including arts and crafts, games, swimming, kayaking, singing and off-site events, among others.
Donovan’s Kids Camp, sponsored by local non-profit group Project Summit, aims largely to achieve the same goals as Project Summit itself – to help “educate, inspire and enable” Ohio children with amputations or other limb differences to “find new ways to develop in mind, body and spirit.” Named after Harry A. Donovan, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran and Project Summit board member, the camp serves to unite children with and without disabilities, facilitating new friendships and helping them to better understand the common challenges.
Greg Rybka, Project Summit board member and director of camp activities for Donovan’s Kids Camp, said expectations are high for 2017. Last year’s camp saw 20 participants – most of whom already are registered to attend again this year – and several new names have joined the list. New registrations will continue to be accepted until the start of camp.
Rybka, who was born with fibular hemimelia and has had both legs and his left arm amputated, said he sympathizes with children with disabilities – who often grow up with limited resources – and sees his involvement with the camp as a bit of a passion project.
“It’s definitely given me an outlet to give back,” he said. “In my own personal experience, I never really had a camp like this to attend when I was a kid. I see this as a way to give back to the community that, in a lot of ways, has given me so much.”
And doing so comes easy to him, he added.
“Dealing with amputees and having conversations with them, it’s something that I’ve been through, so it’s not like trying to learn a new language for me,” Rybka said. “So I kind of understand how they think and what they’re struggling with, but at the end of the day they’re just kids.”
For more information on the 2017 Donovan’s Kids Camp or to download an application, visit the Akron YMCA website.