A disabled Hutsonville girl went to summer camp last year, and now she wants to help as many disabled children as she can to have the same opportunity.
Alyssa Garner, 13, suffers from a T-1 spinal cord injury that she received in 2004. She is paralyzed from the chest down. Last summer, with the help of the Riley Children's Foundation, she spent a week at Camp Riley, where she rode horses, went swimming and rock-wall climbing and enjoyed several other activities.
Camp Riley helps inspire youth with physical disabilities to realize their potential as they become increasingly independent. In addition to recreation, they work on everyday tasks that they can bring home.
Every summer, nearly 250 children, ages 8-18, from throughout Indiana and several other states come to Camp Riley. During their time there, they prove to themselves and others that their strength and will-power define them - not their physical circumstances.
From horseback riding, to swimming, to conquering the high ropes course, campers discover new confidence and make lifelong friends.
Camp Riley holds five different camp sessions during a five-week period each summer at Bradford Woods-Indiana University's 2,500-acre universally accessible outdoor recreational facility.
The camp is staffed by counselors and college students who plan to work with disabled children in the future.
There is an orientation day for parents and one- and two-week camps. The camp attends to all needs and they have a staffed clinic on-site with medical-evacuation services on standby.
Last year, Alyssa attend her first one-week camp. Her mother, Mary Garner, said children set goals before they go. Mary said Alyssa, who will be an eighth-grader at Hutsonville next year, can do several things on her own already, but camp helps them push themselves just a little farther.
The camp cabins are equipped with handicap accessible bathrooms and showers. There is also a pool and lake for swimming. The camp caters to all levels of disability.
The camp costs $2,000 for one week and $2,500 for two weeks. Campers are expected to pay $400 and $800, with the Riley Children's Foundation picking up the rest. The cost to families can also be prorated based on income.
Alyssa has already raised her money for this year, but after going last year and seeing what they can do, she and her mother want to help other disabled children go to camp.
"We had a lot of help last year," said Mary Garner. "We want to send as many as we can to camp."
Several local businesses already contribute to Camp Riley and the foundation.
To find out more about Camp Riley or the Riley Children's Foundation go to www.rileykids.org.
"It means so much to access your account and see your fund paid in full," Mary Garner said.