Thanks to a generous grant from UNITY FOR AUTISM we were able to have our annual Sensory Camp this summer. The grant was super-important since in order to meet our COVID-19 protocol, we could not host 3 families at the same time as we have in the past.
Instead, we had the three families come on consecutive weekends. Other changes that were required included buying catered meals instead of preparing them on site, needing more food since we had to feed our hard-working volunteers and summer students over three weekends instead of just one, using single serve drink boxes and snacks and of course requiring indoor use of masks in the barn and other buildings as well as promoting distancing during our activities. As a result, the camp was much more costly than in past years — twice as much, as a matter of fact!
Due to the very dry summer, we could not use our wood-burning fire pit, so we purchased a propane fire pit, which also increased our cost. It was very useful and will hopefully serve our purposes for many years to come. All three camps enjoyed sitting around the fire in the evening, roasting marshmallows, chatting and re-living the activities of the past day. As you can see from this photo, we had three picnic tables around the fire pit so that we could promote social distancing while at the same time having a social gathering.
All three families (and the volunteers, too) had a great time. And let’s not forget the Ther-a-Playdate families that joined us on the Saturday afternoons. The hot weather had us leaning towards pond activities on every day of each camp, although horse play was still a central part of the program. An important part of our programming is helping older teenagers who may still be coming as clients, but are also volunteers. Four young adults who began as clients were very active at this year’s camps.
The Springfree trampoline was still a favourite, especially when combined with water balloon fights to beat the heat.
There were times when we had so much fun on the zipline, that it looked like we would miss lunch! We had zippers from the age of 3 to 43 who all took their turns flying down to the sure hands of our “catchers”. It was a way to stay cool under the leaves of the forest, and of course it helped our participants with sensory processing, which is the goal of this activity.
Every time we work with our horses, grooming is an important part of the activity. It benefits both horse and rider and demonstrates a respect and love for the animals who work hard to help us. “Thanks, Sugarfoot, for being such a good friend to Skyla and Soraya.” As always, activities are closely supervised by one or more volunteers, who either watch without seeming to be there, or in some cases, they join in with the play and work.
One of the main benefits of our Sensory Camp and Ther-A-Playdates is that parents, who are often isolated due to the time commitment they have looking after their kids, can exchange stories and experiences, share tips and recipes and get a chance to relax with each other while the volunteers look after their children. This picture of relaxation at its best is repeated so often at Hinchinbrook Farm that it is an important unwritten objective.