Summer camp for most kids is a rite of passage.
And thanks to a local non-profit, that rite is no different for many special needs kids in Madison County and surrounding areas.
That local non-profit is Extra Special People, an organization based in Oconee County that serves an eight-county area. The camp was founded in 1986 by Martha Wylie with 21 kids in attendance that first summer.
About 250 kids currently attend summer camp these days and participate in a myriad of year-round activities and therapy for them and their families.
“Our kids are constantly going to therapies, doctor appointments, etc.,” ESP director Laura Whitaker said. “And ESP is a way of life for them – it’s their social network, as one parent said, ‘it’s everything to their child, and it’s everything to their family.’ When they come here it’s almost as if their disability melts away – they are treated for who they are, instead of what they are not.”
Whitaker said ESP campers do some typical “camper things” and they do some extraordinary things – like zip-lining, skydiving, and going down a river, even if they’re wheelchair bound.
“We want them to not just exist, but to really thrive,” she said.
Whitaker took over in December 2005 after Wylie passed way in 2004.
Kailey Lynn Watson and Austin Eberhart get ready to take their turn while counselor Eli Hill set up the game at Pump It Up during an ESP summer camp field trip recently. Margie Richards/staff
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