Rising Sun Camp offers a fun week for autistic campers in Kentville

Wendy Elliott welliott@kingscountynews.ca
Published on August 9, 2014

These campers and buddies at Camp Rising Sun took a moment away from carnival day for a photo. From left are Gillian Cumby, Daniel Kendell, Charles Blenus-Burke, Anna MacDonald and Meghan MacLeod. 

©Wendy Elliott

Sustainable funding continues to be a challenge for a week-long summer day camp for special needs kids.

Rising Sun Camp, based out of St. Joseph’s Church in Kentville, is run by a dedicated group of volunteers, says supporter Bette Salsman. They often return each summer to provide an exceptional and fun week for campers and a much-needed break for parents.

Each of the autistic campers has one or two student ‘buddies’ assigned to them, depending on need. This year, Salsman said, there were 26 campers.

Camp director Pat Murphy, an educator with the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, says the relationships between the buddies and campers is what makes the week so successful.

“Some of them are coming back for their fifth, sixth, seventh year,” Murphy said. “The ones who work ask for days off from their employers.”

Gillian Cumby likes being a buddy when she sees how excited the kids get. “It’s awesome, so much fun,” she says.

Meghan MacLeod enjoying helping as well and she knows the campers look forward to attending for months and months.

“It really brings all the participants together,” she said, “for arts, music and drama.”

Cumby added that she has learned a great deal herself about special needs and is appreciative of the intelligent insights the campers offer.

Throughout the week, the children enjoy arts and crafts, drama, music, games and a special activity each day. This year, those activities included a soap slide, musical entertainment and a banquet.

The camp costs $5,500 to run each year. The camp’s brochure says no child will be turned away if they can’t contribute toward its operation.

The camp was modeled after similar camps created by Jon and Karen Trivers. After they moved away from the area, the couple donated enough money so the camp could run for five years.

Salsman said the camp received financial assistance again this year from Campaign for Kids, Knights of Columbus, St. Joseph’s Catholic Women’s League and the New Minas Rotary Club.