PHOTO: Some of the campers and counselors wait to board their cruise ship to Alaska while in Seattle.
PHOTO: The group of over 20 campers and counselors from Camp Courageous pose for a photo in front of the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. They boarded the cruise ship in Seattle as they embarked on a 10-day adventure.
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The opportunities offered at Camp Courageous of Iowa allow those with special needs to have experiences they may not otherwise. While at camp, campers can sleep outside under the stars, ride the camp train, go swimming, hike the trails, go canoeing, ride the zip line and so much more.
Aside from just staying at Camp Courageous, campers also have the chance to take part in extended and weekend getaways. Some of these adventures include going to University of Iowa Hawkeye games, a weekend away in Chicago or Wisconsin, and extended trips to Orlando, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Hawaii, Mt. Rushmore and Nashville.
Recently Camp took over 29 campers with disabilities and 10 counselors (volunteers) on an Alaskan cruise!
Camp Courageous established a campership fund to help families who wish to send their child or family member to camp. It should be noted that all campers pay their own way for these extended trips. No campership funds are used. Amanda Brenneman, assistant nursing director at Camp, accompanied campers on the cruise. She explained each camper signs up to go on these various trips almost a year in advance and save up their money to go. People can also donate funds to help campers go on weekend trips and extended stays.
In turn, each camp counselor who also goes on these trips volunteers their time to go.
On Aug. 16, the group boarded a bus to the Chicago airport. From there, they flew to Seattle, Wash, to embark on the cruise to Alaska. Along the way, they stopped in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. This required all campers and counselors to have updated passports in order to travel into Canada.
This trip, and every Camp Courageous trip, is planned and organized by Rolando Morales, the travel director at Camp. Brenneman said Morales plans around 20 to 25 trips a year for campers away from the Monticello area camp.
“A lot of these trips are camper-driven,” she said. Through requests from campers, Morales plans every detail of the trip. “He has to make sure everything is wheelchair-accessible.”
(There are certain requirements for those campers who participate on these trips.)
With so much to see and do on the cruise and stops along the way, some of the highlights included whale watching, watching the Alaskan salmon jumping, seeing the magnificent Alaskan glaciers, a walk through an Alaskan rainforest (yes, there are rainforests in Alaska) and even feeding reindeer. While on the cruise ship, Brenneman said the campers took part in singing with the professional entertainers, danced the night away and saw a cirque du soleil-type of performance.
The 10-day trip ended on Aug. 25.
“All of the campers had nothing but positive experiences on this trip,” Brenneman said. “These are wonderful opportunities for our campers to see parts of the world they would never get to see, but with our assistance. They’re assured to have fun and be cared for. Our campers are just like us, in that we’ve also never been to such places.”
Brenneman said the best part of taking advantage of these trips with Camp Courageous is seeing the campers of all ages form lasting friendships with one another and have fun.
To learn more about Camp Courageous and to donate towards these trips or campership funds, visit campcourageous.org.
PHOTO: While in Kethchikan, Alaska, the group watched salmon jumping out of the water during spawning season. Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world.
PHOTO: Amanda Brenneman, assistant nursing director at Camp Courageous, and camper Kevin Kolsto pose for a picture on their cruise ship with a beautiful glacier in the background.
Brennaman said pictures of the glaciers do not do them justice.