Joe Mattingly is returning for his fifth year as a camp counselor for Camp FUEL. Camp FUEL is a camp opportunity for adolescents with disabilities ages 11-17. What makes the camp unique can vary from day to day as the participants spend much of their camp days in the community exploring the fun of Indianapolis with peers and counselors.
“Camp programs developed and provided by Easterseals Crossroads respond to the needs in our community; this is how the concept of Camp FUEL was created. We realized there was a great interest in camps for this age group in greater Indianapolis. We wanted to meet that need by providing fun and unique experience-based learning opportunities in a setting that would provide enjoyment and engaging opportunities for the campers/participants,” said Kristyn Greenawald, Manager of Camps, Respite, and School-based Services.
Camp FUEL Explores Community
The campers are the main reason that Joe returns to Camp FUEL each summer; he is always so happy to see returning campers and meet new ones. During the rest of the year, Joe is an aide in a life skills class at Beech Grove High School and has been for the past nine years.
“I love that we get to provide a unique experience for campers in our community from a variety of places such as Agape, the JCC for swimming and Conner Prairie. Every day is a new and different experience; there is no typical day because every day is new and different. Campers tell me that they love making new friends and visiting places that they have never been,” said Joe.
Peers and New Experiences
Every year, we hear from parents about how much their campers love coming back to us each summer to see their camp friends and visit different places in the community. We strive to meet the individual needs of our campers and we definitely make certain that each camp event is accessible and fun for every camper.
Attending a new camp can cause some first-time participants to be a bit nervous. We have learned that typically by the end of the first day, campers have had such a great time with new experiences and their peers that they cannot wait to return the next day. By the time the session of camp ends, most of our parents tell us that their child cannot wait to return next year. A significantly large percentage of campers are return campers each year until they outgrow the program.
“Years from now, I hope I still remember the smiles on the faces of the campers. This camp experience is honestly one that campers cannot have anywhere else that I know of. I remember one camper who used a wheelchair to ambulate being nervous about horseback riding. After the first horseback riding session at Agape, this camper had the biggest smile! I hope families and campers remember all the unique experiences that camp offered them. I think we will all remember the fun that we had,” said Joe.