As summer camp 2015 came to an end, I would like to reflect on what we have accomplished here at the camp this season. Although this has been my 18th summer camp season here at Camp K, it has been only my second summer as President and CEO. When I started working here at the camp as a counselor in 1998, Camp K was serving about 30 campers per week for a total of 400 campers per season. That number stayed the same until 2010. From 2010 to 2013, we served about 50 campers per day and a total of 500 campers per season. Under my leadership, we were able to serve close to 700 campers in 2014. This summer, we served a record number of campers: more than 100 campers per day, totaling more than 1,000 campers for the season. This is double from what we were able to serve in the past. I would love to be able to say that, even with the record numbers served this season, we had no waiting list this summer; unfortunately we still had a long waiting list this season. My goal is to eventually be able to erase the waiting list and serve all the campers who would like to take advantage of our services.
What else we accomplish this season? Every year we are fortunate to hire some of the most amazing staff to help us deliver our programs. This year, I would venture to say that we had an amazing crew who cared, dedicated themselves, worked hard, and loved our campers. They were amazing role models, and I can’t THANK them enough for their passion, dedication, and commitment to delivering the highest quality programs possible, in a very safe environment.
Camp K is a very complex operation; in order to deliver our services, we have to hire and train lifeguards, registered nurses, certified recreation therapists, cooks, equestrian instructors, challenge ropes course facilitators, small water craft guides, facilities and grounds keeping support, cleaning and custodian support, professional drivers, administration, accounting, human resources, IT support, counselors, group leaders, trip camp guides, coordinators, managers, and the list goes on. In other words, Camp K is an all in one facility: a medical facility, cooking facility, swimming pool facility, equestrian facility, challenge ropes course facility, lodging and hotel facilities, outdoor facilities that include a fishing pond, playground, pavilions, picnic field, trails, accessible transportation services, and the list goes on. All of these put together is Camp K.
Camp K is an ecosystem of love and support for greatness. We truly believe that all individuals are unique, and everyone can achieve amazing things in life, given positive support along the way!
We firmly believe to go big and bold for greatness here at Camp K! We have so many role models to look up every day, both campers and staff. We learn every day from their outlook on life, in the way they look at their own challenges. That motivates us to dedicate ourselves and work harder.
After we added up all our evaluations and outcome reviews, we have learned that over 70% of our summer campers achieved their goals they set up during their attendance of summer camp, and 85% of horseback riding participants reached their goals. We also learned that 100% of parents/guardians state that when their child attends Camp K, they have shown improvement in their independence, self-esteem, and interaction with family and peers. Parents are able to see that their children are able to do things more independently, and help out with tasks and chores around the house. Many parents have shared that their child has become more active and physically stronger due to activities at Camp K. Several families have also stated that their participant has become much more verbal. After attending Camp K programs, the participants often exhibit improved communication during family interactions with immediate and extended family. The participants are able to display appropriate social skills in large group settings, and not request full attention from family members. We have also learned that over 70% of our participants improve in their social abilities and 100% of participants improve in their physical abilities.
Our campers represent all ages and all abilities; they come from difference socio-economic backgrounds and geographical areas. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and special needs through education, recreation and growth experiences that promote personal growth and foster independence. Every year we look at ways to improve our facilities, programs and the way we deliver our programs in order to have the best possible outcomes.
This summer we also received the most “Thank You” letters in a long time from parents and campers. One note from Chris and George (parents) and Valerie (grandma) said “After all these years of providing wonderful adventures for my son August, it’s about time to say THANK YOU with and from the bottom of my heart. The Yellow Stone trip sounded so wonderful! Feeding carrots to bears and rafting – doesn’t get much better than that. We Love You!”
One other note came from Carol: “Thank you one more time for heart felt commitment to all the people you serve at Camp K. The camp staff was among the best staff I have ever met at camp. There was a wonderful blend of happiness, confidence, professionalism, and blending the diverse personalities of the campers.”
Nicole has been coming to Camp K a several years now. She lives in UK. Her mother, Vanessa, after seeing how much benefit Nicole has gained from Camp K, is now starting a foundation in UK to help others come to Camp K and let them benefit too. Vanessa said “You do such a great job. You have given me every reason why I should be doing this new charity. Nicole has been so lucky to have been given the chance to come to you and I want to give other kids the same opportunity – it will take them into adulthood a more independent self-confident person – what more could I ask?”
This summer we built new partnerships, with Natural History Museum of Utah, Tanner Dance, Bad Dog Arts, Red Butte Gardens, and U of U Youth Programs and Muscular Dystrophy Association – all to further our commitment to help and make our services and facilities available to more and more people. Our partner camps offered opportunities for children without disabilities to experience Camp K, and to interact with children with disabilities. These partner camps had a major impact on the children who participated. One parent said that, because her son’s interaction with campers with disabilities during the week at Camp K, he has learned to better interact and communicate with his disabled brother at home. We look forward to continuing those partnerships and building new partnerships for next summer. We look forward to an amazing 2016 Summer Camp Season!
This summer, we were also visited by the CEO of Muscular Dystrophy Association, the CEO of American Camp Association, CEO of United Way, and several other community leaders. We thank them all for their visits!
This brings me to what’s new and exciting coming up at Camp K: on December 1st, #GivingTuesday, we will break the Guinness World Records Title for Most Live Concerts in 24 Hours. We would love for all of you to join Scott Helmer and Camp K, to help raise awareness for people with disabilities all over the world! ABC 4 Utah and Don Hudson are partnering with us on this endeavor, and we THANK both Scott and Don for their support in raising awareness for people with disabilities and special needs. Don Hudson and ABC4 have produced several stories so far that highlight different disabilities served here at Camp K. These are all amazing campers participating at Camp K. Please watch their stories here:
World record attempt will help Utah’s Camp Kostopulos
Camp K is changing lives for the better
The power of MD week at Camp K
Camp K helps veterans with therapy horses
Camp K offers fun and excitement for those with Prader Willi Syndrome
We want to thank our Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox, for visiting with us while veterans were riding horses here at Camp K. We also would like to thank the following people for visiting with us, and showing their support: Lane Beattie, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber; Sean Reyes, our Attorney General; and Peter Corroon, former Salt Lake County Mayor and current Utah Democratic Party Chair. Don is working on a video which captures the support of our community leaders for Camp K, and our endeavor to help raise awareness for people with disabilities. This video is a work in progress, and we would like to give you a sneak peek – Watch video here.