Holland, Mich.-- March has been designated Developmental Disabilities Awareness month by the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.
Camp Sunshine is taking this month to acknowledge and celebrate our mission to “To offer experiences that model and nurture a culture of inclusion, grace, and joy, through which people with and without disabilities can transcend barriers and value both their own gifts and the talents of others.”
One way that Camp Sunshine is nurturing this culture of inclusion is by forming the Sunshine Advisory Council, made up of campers and staff. The Council is a place for discussion and conversation about Camp - from big picture ideas like Camp Sunshine’s traditional 1:1 camper/counselor pairing, to how to honor and respect various beliefs and experiences, down to details like snack and activity preferences.
“Welcoming our campers to the table to plan the camp that they experience is a no-brainer for us,” said Executive Director Kathy Rohlman. “There's a phrase in the disability justice movement of 'nothing for us, without us' and we came to the realization that much of our planning for camp happens without the voices of our campers. As Camp Sunshine grows, we recognize that the voices of individuals with disabilities must be central.” “We have campers who have been coming to camp for decades,” continued Rohlman. “They know what works best for them!”
Sunshine Council builds on feedback from campers that’s collected each year, diving deeper into the survey results and carrying conversations further to improve the Camp Sunshine experience. Camper Kyle Bueche shared comments during Sunshine Council about his desire to participate as a leader and advocate for making Camp a place where all voices are heard.
Camp Sunshine is expanding programming from the traditional overnight camp experience to a year-round calendar of virtual and in-person events, and the input of campers as stakeholders in program planning is key.
Camp Sunshine formed in 1983 with the goal of offering a traditional overnight camp experience to teens and adults with cognitive/developmental disabilities, who may have been excluded from other camp experiences.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Camp Sunshine will return to in-person camp over four sessions in June. The hosting locations are Camp Blodgett in West Olive and Camp Henry in Newaygo.