Fighter Country Partnership’s support for the men, women, and families of Luke Air Force Base focuses on three areas: Morale and Well-Being—Culture and Tradition—Mission Sustainability. Under morale and well-being, FCP helped to sponsor an autism summer camp for children with disabilities through the Hattie Larlham’s “Connect with Hattie’s Friends summer camp” for the second year in a row.
Hattie Larlham is a non-profit organization that provides services to more than 1,500 children and adults with developmental disabilities. In 2011, the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary. Named after its founder, Hattie Larlham, the organization is headquartered in Twinsburg, Ohio in Summit County. The summer camp is one of the largest recreation programs offered at Hattie Larlham.
Ron Sites, President/Executive Director, explained that through the relationship with Honorary Commander Ryan Lantz of the Cleveland Indians, Ryan arranged to connect both FCP and the Hattie Larlham organizations to help military families at Luke AFB who have children with disabilities. Today, children with autism at Luke are identified through the 56th Medical Group and are provided the opportunity to attend the fully-funded summer camp.
On July 9th, 2013 Hattie Larlham took 16 years of camp experience to Goodyear Arizona and launched a new set of summer camps designed to meet the learning and socialization needs of children with and without autism between the ages of six and twelve. With the support of the Cleveland Indians; the Fighter Country Partnership, and the City of Goodyear Fire Department, 13 campers found themselves enjoying everything from field trips to art projects during the two-week-long sessions. The city of Goodyear showed support again to Hattie Larlham with fundraising events that were held for the camp in March of 2012, and the Cleveland Indians participated again in the camp as well by sending baseball players to the program to interact and socialize with the campers.
Julie Lowe, the Program Director of Early Intervention and Recreational Services of the Hattie Larlham organization, explained that through the support and collaboration for a second year as well as with Fighter Country Partnership, we were able to have children of Luke AFB military families attend Camp Connect. Camp ran the weeks of July 8-12 and July 15-19 for Monday-Friday of each week, with the times of 9a-3p for the camp day.
Through the collaboration with the school district, they were able to receive free access to use Wildflower Elementary in Goodyear, as the campsite for the program.
Julie Lowe explained that the camp counselor staff consists of one special education teacher who serves in the lead camp counselor role, and four paraprofessionals in special education and general education settings also working the two weeks of programming. Week one of camp had nine campers in attendance, with week two having an attendance of 10 campers.
Suzanne Mann gave her testimonial about the success of the program. Arjan, son of Lieutenant Colonel Sam and Suzanne Mann, the 62nd Fighter Squadron Commander at Luke, stated, “Arjan had such a wonderful time at camp…so much so that he cried when I told him that camp was over and that he wouldn’t be going anymore,” Suzanne said.
“While all the activities they participated in were great, I think the true foundation of camp experience was the caliber of counselors that worked with Arjan. These folks were absolutely amazing! We received daily progress reports on our son which indicated the type of care he was getting and the quality of the people providing that care. It was also a great opportunity to get our son into two weeks of structured socializing in the middle of the summer break which will hopefully make the transition to kindergarten easier,” Suzanne said.
“Finally, one of the side effects of having an autistic child in the family is that other children in the family sometimes don’t get the focused attention that they deserve,” stated Suzanne. “With my son at camp, I was able to spend some much needed quality time with his sisters as well. Overall, this was a great experience for Arjan and the rest of us in the family.”
In the months leading up to the autism summer camp, Hattie Larlham was able to provide feedback and training on the setup of the camp program. The camp director worked with staff to make sure that all of the routines, activities, schedules, forms, and general dynamics of the camp model our Camp Connect program that runs in Ohio. The camp director has also been able to attend parts of camp to do specific on-site training and meet with staff, families, and most importantly, all of the campers participating in this program.
Julie Lowe stated, “So far, the camp has been received extremely well in the community, and both staff and families in Arizona have expressed their happiness with camp services for children with autism coming out to the Goodyear area. All reviews from Luke Air Force Base families were positive as well.”
“We hope to continue to collaborate with Fighter Country Partnership on future camps,” said Julie Lowe. “We are extremely excited by the success so far, and hope this may lead to becoming a permanent satellite camp program for Hattie Larlham for years to come.”
For more information about Camp Connect, please contact:
Program Director of Early Intervention and Recreational Services
Phone: (330) 274-2272, ext. 3112
Learn more about Hattie Larlham’s autism summer camp:
See photos from the 2012 Camp Connect in Goodyear, Ariz., on the Hattie Larlham Facebook page. Be sure to like the organization for news and updates on camps for children with developmental disabilities and autism.
Post updated on 6 Feb 2020