‘Handicamp’ celebrating 30 years

By Andy Winemiller - [email protected]

A weekend camp for handicapped individuals is set to take place at Homeplace campground this weekend.

On Saturday a long list of festivities will celebrate Eldora Handicamp’s 30th anniversary.

Handicamp coordinator Brent Simpson said that he and a neighbor started the camp three decades ago to create recreational opportunities for people with developmental disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism. Simpson’s daughter, now 42, has spina bifida.

“My neighbor and I got the ball rolling 30 years ago,” said Simpson. “However, it was really a community effort. A lot of people have donated their time, money and other things over the years to make this camp possible.”

Simpson said that the Eldora camp is different from many others in that campers don’t “age out” of the program.

“Their condition doesn’t get any better with age, so we don’t feel age shouldn’t exclude them from our camp,” said Simpson. He added that this year’s camp participants will include many people who have participated every year since the camp’s beginning.

According to Simpson campers will begin arriving at Homeplace on Friday afternoon, and the camp will run through Sunday afternoon. Simpson said that this year the camp will play host to about 20 overnight campers and around 10 day-campers.

Simpson said there is a hayride scheduled after campers finish an evening meal of hot dogs on Friday. After the ride, Simpson said campers will have ice cream provided by the Ararat-Long Hill Ruritan Club before going to bed.

On Saturday campers will awaken to a breakfast cooked by the Ararat Volunteer Fire Department. Then the day will consist of swimming, riding golf carts and many other activities. That day will conclude with a live band performance to celebrate the camp’s anniversary.

Simpson said that people who have made the event possible throughout the years will be recognized that evening. According to Simpson the list of volunteers and contributors is a long one.

“There are a lot of people who are very dedicated to making this camp happen,” said Simpson. “Homeplace provides the camping spaces. Nurses donate their time at the camp. Others donate their time and money. Everybody just pitches in.”

Simpson said that due to the dedication of volunteers and the kindness of financial contributors, no camper spends a dime at the camp.

According to Simpson campers learn about what the weekend camp has to offer mainly by word of mouth. However, according to Simpson there is never a lack of interest in the camp.

“We usually end up with a waiting list,” remarked Simpson. “We are somewhat limited by the number of campers we have available.”

While he has played a very hands-on role at the camp over the past thirty years, Simpson hopes it will continue even beyond his lifetime.

“I have two sons who are very dedicated, and the community is behind this camp,” commented Simpson. “It will be around for a long time.”

By Andy Winemiller

[email protected]

Andy Winemiller is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]

Andy Winemiller is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]

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