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- The gift of education
No Limits, No Problems
University hosts summer camp for children with limb loss
Hamden Middle School student Hayden Piterski was born with just one hand. He was one of 27 kids who attended Camp No Limits at Quinnipiac’s York Hill Campus from July 8 to 12.
Camp No Limits is an overnight summer camp for children of all ages with limb loss and limb difference. Campers are paired with adult mentors and learn through activities and support groups that despite their physical handicaps, they are still able to lead independent and fulfilling lives.
“It’s just great to be around other people and see other people like me and what other people are going through,” Piterski said in an interview with Fox News CT. “I can just socialize and see what they do to help adapt.”
Camp No Limits currently has ten locations in nine states across the United States. Quinnipiac is the first institution of higher education, as well as the first location in Connecticut, to host the camp.
The camp was organized by Professor Donald Kowalsky and three physical therapy graduate students – Courtney Miller, Avani Patel and Jennifer McNaughton.
Courtney Miller was inspired to organize the camp after her friend, a bilateral above-knee amputee, encouraged her to volunteer at two Camp No Limits locations in Maine and Maryland in 2013.
“It really was a life-changing experience,” said Miller, who decided to bring the camp to QU for her capstone project. Her dream came true after two years of preparation, which included coordinating with the facilities department, the YMCA, official Camp No Limits personnel, Quinnipiac student volunteers, and vendors for meals, transportation and daily activities.
In addition to 27 campers and their families, Camp No Limits hosted 10 adult mentors, 10 professional volunteers and 45 interprofessional student volunteers.
The campers enjoyed a variety of activities every day while staying in dormitories on York Hill. In the morning, they warmed up with sessions of pilates, energizers, announcements and “life skills” group work. After lunch, they participated in physical activities such as sled hockey at the TD Bank Sports Center and attended support groups. This was followed by dinner and an evening program, such as a movie, campfire, talent show or dance.
But the camp doesn’t just benefit children with limb differences. According to Miller, it is also a “truly amazing” experience for the parents, siblings, friends and extended family members.
“There are no words to describe watching a camper ride a bike for the first time without training wheels or use a running leg for the first time,” Miller said. “Seeing new parents smile watching their kid come out of their shell because they are ‘just like all the other kids’ and knowing that you were a part of creating this environment made all the hard work worth it.”
Her opinion is shared by Cameron Clapp, a 29-year-old triple amputee who was hit by a freight train at the age of 15. Clapp first attended Camp No Limits as a camper but now works as a mentor.
“Through mentorship we really can educate all of the campers, really give them self-esteem and help them to be themselves,” Clapp said in an interview with Fox News CT. “They come out here to be with other kids who are just like them, they see the adult amputee counselors, and they realize, ‘I can live life just as I am’ and be perfectly happy with that.”
After the success of this year’s Camp No Limits, the camp is in the process of becoming a capstone project for QU’s physical therapy department and may even transition to the interprofessional department in the future, according to Miller.
There are currently four students planning next year’s camp, and four more students will take over the project in the following year. Miller will remain involved and plans on assisting with certain organizational aspects as needed.
“I think that the school and camp are really excited about this new partnership and are looking forward to continuing the collaboration,” she said. “We hope to have smooth sailing for next year’s camp!”