Inclusion Makes YMCA Camp Accessible and Fun

At summer camp, inclusion is important. One metro Detroit family found just what they need at YMCA Inclusion Summer Day Camp.

When Kelsey, a metro Detroit mom of two, started looking for a great summer camp for her youngest daughter, she found many options in the metro Detroit area for typically developing kids. But Kelsey’s daughter has a chromosomal disorder that means she needs a little more help in a typical summer camp environment.

As long-standing members of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Kelsey and her family were thrilled to discover the YMCA Inclusion Summer Day Camp at the Birmingham Family YMCA.

“We were looking for a camp so our daughter could feel included and the Y was highly recommended to us. We reached out to Brittany Barron (Youth and Family Director at the Birmingham Family YMCA) and, after our wonderful experience last summer, it’s a no-brainer. We’ll be going back again this summer,” says Kelsey.

Y Inclusion Camp allows Kelsey’s daughter, who will turn 6 in the fall, to take part in all the fun experiences all campers have with a one-on-one counselor who offers as much help as she needs. “Part of her condition is a bleeding disorder, which means that if she’s on a play structure, she needs to be monitored carefully because a fall could be very dangerous for her,” Kelsey explains, adding that this additional level of support means her daughter can join in age-appropriate activities with peers without worry.

Kelsey’s daughter also has apraxia of speech, which is a disorder that affects the motor planning in her brain. The effect is a lack of articulation, which makes it a challenge to engage with kids of her own age without help.

“If a typically developing 4- or 5-year-old doesn’t understand what someone is saying, they just walk away. When this happens, my daughter is sad because she wants to play but the children don’t understand. She needs adult support to help engage the kids so they can all play together more easily,” Kelsey explains. The Y recognizes that social inclusion matters for children and developed creative solutions to address this gap.

Every child should experience joy

The pandemic caused disruption for all kids, but the return to normal for kids with unique needs has lagged. Kelsey says she’s grateful the Y took the initiative to meet the needs of all kids. “When things opened up, they opened for kids who don’t need help,” she says. “But the last things to open were special needs camps. It’s wonderful that the Y opened at full force and full capacity.”

Early this year, Kelsey says she was happy when Barron called to make sure her daughter was on board this summer. “She reached out as soon as camp registration opened and it’s great that she took the initiative. She wanted to make sure she was part of the family and it’s so nice to feel included because it can sometimes be a struggle,” Kelsey says.

She even learned about upcoming field trips to the Detroit Zoo, the DIA and a water park — selections that are fun for every ability.

Kelsey is so thrilled with YMCA Day Camp, she says her older daughter, who is 7, will attend this summer, too — and her younger sister is preparing her for all the fun she’ll have, including her favorites: swimming and weekly themed activities. “She keeps asking if they have scheduled Pajama Day yet,” says Kelsey.

Learn more about YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit’s Summer Day Camp at ymcadetroit.org/day-camp.

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