Dr. David McLone, a neurosurgeon at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, launched the first camp for youth and young adults with spina bifida in the Chicago area in 1989. The original name was Camp Ability. Dr. Holmbeck joined forces with Dr. McLone in 2005.
Camp Independence (and previously Camp Ability) has called several sites home. Summer 2015 is the 6th summer at YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside, IL.
The current site contains one cabin designed specifically for individuals with spina bifida. It has 16 beds (campers sleep on the bottom bunk and their counselors sleep on the top), laundry facilities, an accessible kitchen, spacious bathrooms, and a tornado shelter. There is also a large "great room" in which campers, counselors, and other staff attend the independence intervention, participate in fun camp activities, and otherwise hang out. The whole cabin is also air-conditioned and has a beautiful deck for soaking up the sun!
Camp counselors come from all over the world, including the UK, Australia, Sweden, Ireland, and the US!
There are always 2 nurses on hand to administer medications, help with catheterization and toileting, and manage other medical issues.
Financial aid scholarships ARE available for families in need of financial assistance.
Check out an August 2015 Channel 7 news story on Camp Independence: HERE
A Note from Kim Klages A 2014 Camp Independence Interventionist
On June 19th, Camp Independence kicked summer into gear thanks to Dr. McLone, YMCA Camp Duncan, and the Spina Bifida Association of Illinois (SBAIL). Located at the YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside, Illinois, Camp Independence is a sleep-away camp designed to promote independent living for children, teens, and young adults with spina bifida.
This past summer, campers from all over the Midwest spent a total of six days in the fully accessible Camp Independence cabin learning and practicing independent living skills. Each morning after breakfast, campers and their camp counselors attended Design for Independence, a one-hour workshop providing daily independence lessons which were led by me, the interventionist. These lessons focused on relationship and self-esteem building, independent self-care, emotional wellness, and preparing for the future. Along with these daily independence interventions, campers, with the help of their counselors, worked hard throughout the week to achieve one social goal and one health goal that the campers chose at the beginning of camp. Do not let this notion of hard work fool you - camp is also a lot of fun!
In a typical week at camp, campers attended skill periods for about an hour each day where they were able to choose an activity such as archery, wheelchair basketball, or arts and crafts. Campers also visited the YMCA Camp Duncan pool for about an hour each day to practice their swimming skills or to just splash around with their counselors. On days when the weather was nice, campers and their counselors went kayaking together on the lake! After dinner each night, the evenings were filled with activities such as karaoke, bonfires, or a dance.
Almost every Wednesday, campers and counselors were given extra time in the morning before breakfast to sleep in and get ready for the biggest theme day of the week. On these days, campers and their counselors formed into one team where they would dress up to fit the theme of that day to “compete” with other teams from YMCA Camp Duncan. All of the teams were given activities to complete in the vicinity of Camp Duncan in order to gain points, and the team with the most points at the end of the day was declared the winner. My favorite memory of this past summer was when the Camp Independence team “Cheetahs” won first place on Survivor Day!
Theme day was not the only special day of the week at Camp Independence; campers who were 12 years and older (and courageous enough) also had an exciting day going down the zip-line on the high ropes course on Thursdays! Being afraid of heights, it was a battle for the campers and counselors to encourage me to try the zip-line, but by week four it looked too fun to pass up.
Overall, Camp Independence had a great year and will have many wonderful summers to come. If anyone is interested in attending Camp Independence or has any suggestions, please contact Dr. Grayson Holmbeck at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ymcachicago.org/independence/ for more information!
Camp Independence Sounds Fun, But What Does The Research Show?
So far, the research has shown some very encouraging findings! This is what we have learned:
One month after the end of camp, parents and campers reported that the camper improved on their self-care goals, social goals, management of medical tasks, and general independence.
Setting goals to improve self-care abilities and social skills seems to help build independence.
Campers and their parents report that they really enjoy camp and the independence workshops.
Want to get all the details? Check out these articles:
CLICK HERE for a 2010 article published inJournal of Pediatric Psychologyby Dr. Holmbeck and previous CHATS Lab members Kerry O'Mahar, Barbara Jandasek, and Jill Zukerman
CLICK HERE for a 2013 article published inJournal of Pediatric Psychologyby Dr. Holmbeck and current/prevoius CHATS Lab members Tina Holbein, Caitlin Murray, Alex Psihogios, Rachel Wasserman, Bonnie Essner, and Lauren O'Hara
We continue to analyze the data. We will let you know what else we find soon!
Our research at Camp Independence is funded by The Spastic Paralysis Research Foundation of the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District of Kiwanis International