Summer fun: make it affordable
Kids are expensive.

Add a disability and the cost of one-to-one workers, special equipment and transportation and sending your child to camp may be beyond your reach.

A day camp that costs $100 a week can quickly turn into a $1,000 proposition when you factor in an additional $150 a day for a support worker and the cost of a wheelchair taxi to and from camp.

There are ways to make things more affordable, but they require research, advocacy and early planning.

Contact the social worker or recreation therapist at your child’s rehab centre — or visit the rehab centre’s website — to find out about disability groups, wish organizations, service clubs and charities that provide funding for summer camps and recreation activities.

Ask about free summer programs in your area, places where you can borrow equipment your child may need — like an all-terrain wheelchair — and volunteer programs that may support your child.

You can also do an internet search using words like camp + funding + disabilities + charity + your location.

Depending on the funding source, you may need to fill out an application form or write a letter. The letter should include a short description of your child — including age, interests and disability — and describe the impact a summer program will have on your child’s life.

Don’t forget to ask the director of the summer program you’re interested in if they offer financial assistance or know a source that does.

“Asking for financial help is a type of advocacy for your child,” says Barb Anthony, recreation awareness program co-ordinator at Bloorview Kids Rehab. “Children with disabilities are deserving of extra help and if we don’t ask, who will?”

Barb notes that it’s easy for parents to lose confidence if one avenue of funding doesn’t pan out. “Sometimes we try one route and get so disheartened when we’re turned down, that we don’t ask anymore.” Perseverance is essential, she says.


Funding tips

Start early. Some programs allocate a fixed amount of financial assistance for the year, and it’s first come, first served.

Cast your net wide. Don’t be afraid to ask all of your contacts about funding — even if you think it’s a long shot. For example, Jennifer Johannesen never considered applying to Chai Lifeline, a group that supports Jewish children living with serious illness or disability. Her son Owen, who has cerebral palsy and complex medical needs, is not Jewish. However, when Jennifer asked whether Adventure Valley Day Camp in Toronto could accommodate Owen, the director called Chai Lifeline to see if the group would cover Owen’s camp fees. They did! See Owen with two of his counsellors, left.

Develop a compelling personal story about why your child would benefit from a particular camp.



Bloorview Kids Rehab | Bloorview’s Resource Centre