Select the testimonials below to read how Camp Inspire has not only touched the participants, but the parents and volunteers as well.
Emily Kitchen Letter
Learning organizations provide many additional resources to parents of children of various functioning levels, however; they can be instrumental to parents who have children with special needs. Camp Inspire is a remarkable organization founded on the principle that if the focus is placed on the child’s ABILITIES rather than their DISabilities then the expectations for the child begin to shift and so do their performance levels. This camp is a four-week day program offered Monday through Thursday to individuals on the Autism Spectrum. With a staff of highly trained individuals in backgrounds of special education, Autism certification, and psychology, Camp Inspire is able to provide a goal set catered to many children’s needs. Such goals include improving the individuals social and emotional skills, encouraging prosocial behavior through direct one on one peer interaction, and promoting skills that aide in becoming self sufficient through various field trips to local libraries, restaurants, and other public venues.
Organizations such as Camp Inspire are a vital resource to parents to ensure that learning continues not only during the school year within the confines of a classroom but outside the classroom as well where learning is dynamic and persistent. This topic is of extreme importance due to the personal nature of the subject. Having interacted with many individuals on the spectrum from about age 16, it brings me more joy than anything else to know that I took part in an organization that brings individuals who are usually in
the background up to forefront. This camp encourages independence of a population that typically has low expectations set in succeeding and allows the individuals true ABILITIES to shine through.
Meredith Stewart Letter
My name is Meredith Stewart and I am a recent Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. I graduated magna cum laude from physical therapy school and took on many leadership roles throughout the program such as being our class liaison, being one of the program’s representatives for connecting USciences with the Pennsylvania American Physical Therapy Association, I initiated and instructed a workshop on clinical education, was a member of the physical therapy club, and I continue to remain a member of the program’s advisory board. I recently accepted my first physical therapy job with AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center working between their two major hospitals in New Jersey upon completion of my boards in July. Their Main Campus hospital specializes in trauma and stroke and their Mainland hospital focuses primarily on joint replacements and cardiovascular surgery. I am excited to take my love of patients and specifically neurology with me in this job, as I hope to later become a board certified physical therapist in neurology. Rocco Aiello and his numerous programs not only sparked my interest in the medical field, but also were a catalyst to both my personal and professional growth throughout the years. Without Rocco, and the abundance of programs he let me become involved in, I know for a fact, that I would not be where I am today.
I first met Rocco when I skipped a lunch period in high school back in 2008, and spent it with him and some of the amazing children in his adapted physical education class. He asked me if I was interested in coming again, and from then on, spending time with Rocco and those kids became my new lunch period. About a year later, Rocco and I began a peer-teaching program at the local middle school where I helped teachers in their adapted classrooms and was able to get a lot of teaching experience with children with disabilities. Rocco and I’s journey continued to the pool where I became an adapted aquatics instructor in his amazing Adapted Aquatics program. Adapted aquatics was where I truly fell in love with rehabilitation, and knew that that was the route I wanted to take to further my education. After a few years of adapted aquatics, Rocco asked me to be a peer mentor and later camp instructor at Camp Inspire. The experience I had at Camp Inspire cannot be summated through words because everything I learned from other instructors and the children that attended camp is not measureable in any sense of the word. Working at camp helped me to gain communication, problem-solving, and life skills that I have used throughout my academic and professional career. I find it even hard to say I ever “worked” at Camp Inspire because every second I spent at camp was so fun and rewarding. As I worked at camp, I finished my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at The Pennsylvania State University – Main Campus. I was later accepted to the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia to achieve my doctoral degree in physical therapy.
While at USciences, we performed capstone research. I chose to conduct my capstone research alongside Rocco Aiello and Dr. Kimberly Ward in order to better understand and help the families at Camp Inspire, while exploring topics of psychosocial, physical activity, and needs of these amazing families. We conducted a qualitative research study with the parents, children with ASD, and their typically developing siblings. We acquired such an abundance of valuable information that I was able to present at two national physical therapy conferences, one local, and at USciences research day, all while still only having presented a small portion of the data collected. Dr. Ward and I presented our poster on the psychosocial aspects of the project titled, ‘Lived experiences of parents with children with autism spectrum disorders: Qualitative focus on parent’s joys, concerns, and needs’ in Keystone Resort, Colorado at the American Physical Therapy Association Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Annual Conference in November 2016. We also presented at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting in San Antonio, TX about the physical activity data we collected under the title, ‘Lived experiences of parents with children with autism spectrum disorders: Qualitative focus on the impact of physical activity’ in February 2017. I presented both posters at the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association Southeast District Combined Sections Meeting and USciences Research Day in Philadelphia, PA this past April. Our abstracts were published in the journal of Pediatric Physical Therapy and we are working towards getting our overall research published after I complete the boards in July. Along with continuing to get our research published, we are trying to bring Camp Inspire to the Philadelphia region within the next few years to share with families from the Philadelphia area.
While this has certainly been a long journey dating all the way back to 2008, Rocco and the families I have met along the way helped me to find my career path and passion in life. In particular, Rocco truly helped me to aspire to be more for those around me as he does on a daily basis. I think the love that families have for the programs that Rocco offers are a true testament for the positive effect that they can have on everyone involved. I believe that anyone that has the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and be a part of organizations and programs that promote positivity and rehabilitation will find that they will acquire much more than even a full heart – rather they will adopt skills and traits that will mold them into a strong and successful professional and person down the line. For that, I cannot thank Rocco Aiello, the families, and in particular the children I have come across during this amazing journey. I feel so lucky each and every day to have been blessed with these opportunities and relationships and can’t wait to see where they take me in the future.
July 27, 2017
To Whom It May Concern:
It gives us great pleasure to write this letter of support and endorsement for the Camp Inspire program. My son Ryan, has had the pleasure to have attended this summer camp for seven years. We have been very pleased to have such a beneficial program for individuals and their families who endure from disorders on the Autism Spectrum. Camp Inspire provides a program that many St. Mary’s County Public Schools students attend. The social groups, therapy programs, Project Inspire, and support groups as well as ESY services integrated into the camp have proven helpful and stabilizing for many children and their families. Our own personal experiences with the camp is that it has given my son hope. He has been able to socialize, work with his peers, learn social skills, participate in adapted physical activities, as well as learn how to write a resume, how to perform in a job interview, and also learn basic life skills to build his future.
Without Camp Inspire, I don’t think my son Ryan would be the person he has grown into today. Ryan and our family now have hope that he will be able to function in society by having the ability to socialize and work. He has been given the opportunities to have a chance to be part of our working society. One important fact that Camp Inspire has brought to life is they conform to the world of Autism and work diligently to merge society and the community into that world.
Camp Inspire has proven to be very successful with community outreach. Without this camp Ryan would not have had the many opportunities he has experienced. We briefly mentioned to Mr. Rocco Aiello that we have Ryan volunteer at the Cat Castle (SMAWL) to help socialize feral cats. The next thing we knew, he had worked out a field experience for the campers to attend the SMAWL organization to volunteer as well. It was one of the most powerful experiences for those campers. It empowered my son and made him feel that he is important. The
Camp Inspire staff is extremely professional, well educated, and very supportive with one common element: What can we do to inspire these children? Which to us as parents, is the most important goal to focus on with children and adults on the Autism Spectrum. We strongly endorse Camp Inspire and hope we have the opportunity to benefit from its many positive and educational roles it plays among our community.
Jim and Wendy Pendarvis