Developmentally Disabled Go Camping

Thursday, July 21, 2011
VIP employees spend the weekend camping.

Venturing into the great outdoors several times last month, 31 individuals with developmental disabilities were able to experience the joy of camping from campfires to swimming to learning about various aspects of nature.

Three camping trips were taken by participants of the Outdoor Adventures Program, which is sponsored by the Association for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (AID), in conjunction with VIP. One trip was to Lake Wappapello State Park and the other two were to Arrowhead Campgrounds in Glen Allen. At least two more camping trips are planned before the summer is over.

A group of seven young men ventured to Lake Wappapello where they attended numerous outdoor educational events. The campers learned how to identify poison ivy and other plants of Missouri, such as the Virginia creeper, venomous and non-venomous snakes of Missouri, edible and non-edible mushrooms of the region, and about the flood of 2011 and the damage it caused.

"We watched a film on the flood," said Doug Ramsey, a Marble Hill workshop employee. "They also showed us all the big boulders and rocks that moved because of the flood."

While Ramsey enjoyed the nature lessons and learned many new things, he admits that the food was his favorite part about the weekend.

As for Wendy Grawe, who camped at Arrowhead Campgrounds, she said she enjoyed everything about the weekend. She and 11 co-workers swam in the river, cooked food on a grill, worked on craft projects, and enjoyed the camaraderie around a campfire.

"I've gone camping before, but not this kind," Grawe said, adding that she used to go camping with her family. "Here was a much better deal."

The Fruitland workshop employee enjoyed having her friends and staff around the entire weekend, as well as spending time outdoors.

"It was just like being at home," Grawe said. "The gals I was with were just like my sisters."

While Cape workshop employee, Dorothy Seyer, enjoyed using the river to practice floating, she enjoyed just wading her feet in the water while sitting on a lawn chair. She also liked being able to work on different crafts, such as decorating T-shirts and flip-flops.

Mary Jane DeBrock, also a Cape workshop employee, enjoyed every part of the camping trip, she said.

"It's peace and quiet out there. It's nice and you get away from everybody," DeBrock said.

As to whether or not the campers would go camping again, many of them said they would not hesitate at the opportunity.

"I'd go in a heartbeat," Ramsey said.

DeBrock agreed.

"I'm ready to go back," she said.

Additional Outdoor Adventures are currently being planned. It is the goal of the Outdoor Adventures Program to teach skills in socialization, improve communication, participation, and to provide an environment which encourages their overall growth and development.

If you are interested in participating or volunteering for the Outdoor Adventures program, are an avid camper, or just have a love for nature and would like to mentor others who wish to learn, please contact us via our website at

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