Camp Munroe offers friendship, fun

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | June 20, 2013

Camper Nate Urbanski reels in a big one while swimming at Camp Munroe.

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Camper Nate Urbanski reels in a big one while swimming at Camp Munroe.
In one area, a group of campers chant along to the book "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" - loudly.

In another, volunteers and staff lead campers through the process of making play dough.

Some older campers congregate in front of a television screen, playing a video racing game.

It's just another day at Camp Munroe, the Munroe-Meyer Institute's popular summer camp for children with developmental disabilities. More than 225 campers are registered for the six weeks of camp, with approximately 250 volunteers on tap to help out.

The camp provides many benefits to its participants, said Kelley Coutts, assistant director of recreational therapy at MMI.

See more photos of camp activities.

"We try to take what a typical camp offers and adapt it to fit the needs of our campers," she said.

The focus is not on education, although the camp does foster an environment where children can practice specific skills.

"With our kids, all year long it's about meeting IEP (individual education plan) goals," Coutts said. "Summer camp is supposed to be fun."

Camp Munroe provides a chance to make friends, to participate in activities such as swimming, arts and crafts and a weekly talent show, and to create memories.

"The big thing is, we see them as kids first," Coutts said. "What their diagnosis is -- that's far down the list. That's not the first thing we want counselors to know about them."

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Counselor Grace Wilder assists a camper in the pool.
Counselor Alyx Stumpf, 19, began volunteering as a peer helper when she was 6. Her older sister, who has graduated from the program, was a camper.

"No matter how exhausted I am at the end of a day, it's so rewarding to help out," said Stumpf, who is attending Northwest Missouri State and wants to be a physical therapist. "To see how much fun they are having is awesome."

Like slots for campers, slots for volunteers fill quickly - despite the large number of volunteers needed, volunteer coordinator Nicole Giron has a waiting list of interested teens.

That's because, like Stumpf, many volunteers stay on. In fact, so many go on to become staff members that Giron jokes, "We grow our own staff."

Staffer Anne Mitzlaff, 22, began volunteering six years ago, and she stays because she loves the atmosphere of acceptance, of positivity and of encouragement - in a world where too many people only seem to see what these campers can't do.

"We always see what the kids can do," Mitzlaff said.

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Anne Lawlor
June 20, 2013 at 9:26 AM

This is my son's first year as a volunteer at Camp Munroe. He absolutely loves it! I'm sure he is receiving from the campers so much more than he could ever give. The staff is first-rate - great job, all!