CARLINVILLE — The 30th annual Family Camp for persons with special needs and their families and friends, was, as usual, a fun time for everyone involved, reports Elaine Vonderheide, who directs the weekend every year. This year’s camp took place Sept. 21-22, at Lake Williamson Christian Center.
Attendees and their guests participated in a variety of activities, including swimming, square dancing, playing mini golf, creating crafts and singing. The camp closed with Sunday Mass, celebrated this year by Father Chris House, rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish and vicar judicial in the Office of the Tribunal.
Mary Frichtl, from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Newton, says her son Thomas begins asking about Family Camp “about as soon as Christmas is over.” Thomas, who is 23 and has Down syndrome, has been attending the camp with his mother for about 10 years. “Thomas just loves it so much,” she says. “To just see it is just amazing.”
Margaret Borries of Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham says three generations of her family now attend Family Camp. “We’ve gone many times, really too many times to remember. I think the first year Jay was about 13 and he is now 30 years old,” she says. “His older sister always liked to go with him. She has a family now but still has fond memories of the camp and still looks forward to going. This year we went with my daughter and the grandkids who are 4, 6 and 10.”
Borries says camp is exceptionally good for Jay, who has Down syndrome. “He loves all of the activities and the socialization and freedom is really good for him. It gives him a little independence when he can get away from me and take part in something. For example, if he jumps on the wagon to go on a hayrack ride, he can just wave goodbye and he’ll be fine.”
Myrna Livengood, from St. Jude Parish in Rochester, says Family Camp is something her family of eight attends every year. She and her husband Ken have six children who range in age from 6 to 18. Two of those children have autism.
“We have formed friendships with everybody we have met at camp. We keep in touch on Facebook and see one another at camp. Personally, I benefit from those friendships,” she says. “My husband, Ken, works hard all year, but he really looks at this as his reward weekend. When we are at camp he can just sit back and chill for the weekend.”
“We give special thanks to the camp coordinator, Elaine, and to all those who volunteered to assist the campers,” says Christy Hakman, marketing and development director of Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham. “We’re grateful to the many donors who helped to make this year’s camp possible, including the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Effingham Knights of Columbus and Sacred Heart Parish.”
Vonderheide says Family Camp has been a real blessing in her life. “I have been privileged to facilitate Family Camp for these past 30 years and to witness the joy and enthusiasm with which the participants come to Family Camp. Before we have completed the current camp, they are already asking about next year.
“I believe the camp is an opportunity for our families to relax with other families and share their stories and life experiences, as they participate in the many fun activities that are provided,” Vonderheide says. “Celebrating Eucharist and other faith activities together, unites them as ‘families of faith.’ Most importantly, they feel blessed that others care about them and that there is a faith community that supports them.”