When Ann Sweeney was a summer camp counselor at Beyond the Spectrum — a nonprofit clinic and education center for children with autism — eight years ago, there were a few volunteers working with a handful of children in two classrooms.
Today, seven classrooms bustle with campers and activities. Since 2014, the school’s enrollment doubled from 20 to 40 students, which Sweeney anticipates will reflect in camp enrollment numbers.
“We’ve had gradual growth, but it’s continuing,” said Sweeney, now a marketing assistant for Beyond the Spectrum.
This year, more than 50 campers will attend the six-week summer camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon (half day) or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (full day) June 22 through July 31.
With a growing number of campers, the need for financial assistance is also growing; the cost per camper is $1,500. Beyond the Spectrum launched a campaign June 1 to raise $25,000 by July 17 to fund scholarships to send more children to camp. Scholarship dollars raised by that point will still be able to fund two weeks of camp for in-need children.
“We asked more parents this year if they had trouble paying for camp, and 10 to 15 said they needed help after paying for their child throughout the school year,” Sweeney said. “A lot of parents are topped financially by summer.”
The group is contacting local businesses to sponsor campers, and is utilizing its Facebook page to alert the community of the campers’ financial need. Special-needs camps can cost more than traditional camps, because of the need for more counselors and a full time, certified behavioral analyst on site.
“The children we have at camp can be intense and require more attention by more counselors,” Sweeney said. “Whatever the amount you donate, it all goes to helping special children.”
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].