Camp Happiness day camp

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Camp Photos:
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Related below are the experiences of volunteers, staff and campers. The names of participants, individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, may have been shortened to protect their privacy.
 



 


Camp Happiness 2014 Stories


Lisa Tribunella, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Camp was fun this year. I enjoyed volleyball and swimming, camp fires and the relay race. I did come in first place. I like the horse ride and arts and crafts. I like seeing everybody again. I went on the paddle boats for a second time. I got over my fear of it so now I love it and I enjoy myself when I’m there so I am looking forward to next year there too.

Colleen Hildebrant, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Camp was fun! It was enjoyable to see everyone and the food was good. I really enjoyed doing the relay and meeting our counselor Mei who was very nice.

Richard E., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I am nice to friends. I played basketball, volleyball, and liked the horses. My favorite activity was the paddle boats. I do them every year! I am proud that I tried the rock wall. I love camp.

Darren H., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
When I stayed overnight at camp my friends and I did a nature walk, finger painting and ate a delicious dinner. I even found out my cousin was on staff there! We had a blast. I did rock climbing – well half of it anyways. I liked the paddle boats and swimming. I guess you could say I’m a fish. I’m so happy I got to go to camp and I’m looking forward to next year.

Holly Hodi, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Camp was so fun and cool. I got to see my old friends. I was happy to hear my favorite songs played at the dance.

Tabitha, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I like being able to see my friends. I had fun swimming, dancing and playing basketball. I can’t wait to go next year!

Bob Turner, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I loved riding the horses, I had fun.

Michael P., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I enjoyed volleyball and basketball. I like singing at the campfire, dancing and the paddle boats.

Geoff Holly, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I liked volleyball and the horse & carriage ride.

B., Individual participant/Camper:
I enjoyed the horse & carriage ride. Also liked the dance. I enjoyed playing kick ball and sitting around the campfire and singing songs. I’m glad we got our shirts the first day. The relay races were fun.

Judy Brown, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I liked horse & carriage ride and our yellow shirts.

Harvey E., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Enjoyed the paddle boats, 50-yard dash, kick ball, and basketball. Food was pretty good. Wall climb-didn’t like it because I just couldn’t get up it right. But I tried.

K., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I enjoyed everything at Camp Happiness. Food was good.

Claire G., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Favorites were “Oh Suzzana” and other camp fire songs, dance, archery, arts & crafts, basketball, and the flowers.

Glenn Spencer, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I really liked the rock wall, basketball and swimming. Thought the volunteers were great. Really loved the lunch. The rain on Tuesday did not dampen the fun. Loved the bonfire and sing along.

Robert M., Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport location:
I liked the horses, volleyball, basketball and the dance.

Samantha Lunz, Camper, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
My favorite activities were swimming and basketball. I enjoyed everything and went on the horse and buggy three times!

Danielle Walker, Program Instructor, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I worked a lot with Samantha during camp week. Sammie was really looking forward to camp and did excellent. This was her first week and she really enjoyed herself at camp.

Heather London, Day Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
The first day at camp was fun; everyone sat by the campfire and sang songs. They really enjoyed themselves.

Renee Brown, Staff, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I must say Camp was very good this year. “One star” to the very clean bathrooms for the campers and staff. Group 4 enjoyed the help of Andy from the Y-staff. The 50-yard dash was wonderful; they enjoyed the ribbons for their run.

Jane Logan, Camp Volunteer and Photographer, Elks Member:
The 2014 Camp Happiness of Niagara County was the best ever! Just seeing the joy on the Campers’ faces is nearly beyond description. “Elks care, Elks share” is an understatement where Camp Happiness volunteers are concerned. Rosie S. personally donated $1,000 to start a fund to assist Campers who cannot afford the camp fees. Mary U. took a week off from work, without pay, to volunteer this year; and Judy B. contacted several greenhouses and obtained enough donated plants and supplies for her and her team to conduct their Horticulture classes, where every Camper potted flowers to take home. These are only a few examples of what Elks Lodge #41 volunteers do for Camp Happiness.

Perhaps you feel your role this year was not enough. That could not be further from the truth. For, as a group that shares the same vision and goals, every bit if what we do matters! See you at Camp 2015!

Tim Logan, Camp Volunteer and Photographer, Elks Member:
As Assistant Camp Photographer and Memory Book and Video Producer, I can honestly say all the endeavor put in pales in comparison to witnessing the joy of the campers who challenge their disabilities in an amazing way to participate in the Camp activities. Such is one of the many joys of my life.

Don Krueger, Est. Lecturing Knight/House Committee Chair:
I was very fortunate to be invited to Camp Happiness on Friday June 20. The bright shinny faces enjoying sunny skies with everlasting smiles and eyes of joy became a fixture in my mind. This thought not only encompassed the campers, but each and every volunteer and staff member. The Elk’s presence gave me a new insight and made me even more proud to be a member of this great organization. If you ever have the opportunity to attend this annual event, do yourself a favor and visit this wonderful activity, it will be a time to remember. Thank you all who attended and volunteered, this was one of the best Elk events ever!

Fred Kanehl, Planning Committee Member, Camp Volunteer, Elks Member:
Our 7th year of Camp Happiness of Niagara County has been completed. Having been involved with this from its birth, it is easy to see not just the maturity and growth of the returning campers but also of the camp. It is quite an organization and this year Niagara Falls and Twin Cities Lodges were invited to join and support the Camp. ER Jim Sutton, and his friend Jackie representing Twin Cities, volunteered their help this year and came away awed and impressed. Campers came in from all of Niagara County and surrounding areas for a day of fun experiences. While we have been busy growing the camp it is now time to guarantee its future, as it has been proven that this is a huge asset for our County. A camp that originally cost $16,000 to run now costs $28,000. We hope to grow this relationship among the three lodges representing Elks in Niagara County. When you see the smiles and joy on the faces of the campers, along with the sense of accomplishment when the campers challenge themselves in trying new things, it is easy to see the benefits of this camp. When you watch the effort and enthusiasm of the Elks and non-Elk volunteers as they direct, oversee, and/or participate in this camp giving their all to see the campers have a great experience, it is also easy to see not just the campers that benefit from this camp, but all who are involved in its organization. Its future is dependent on our volunteers (Elk and Non-Elk); a challenge we are all up to.

John Zieziula Planning Committee Member, Camp Volunteer, Elks Member:
After seven years of Camp Happiness, many people would think that the “Light” of Camp Happiness would start to grow dim…but in reality…this year’s Camp only shows how “Bright” the light really is. I cannot say enough about the combined actions of the Elk volunteers, Opportunities Unlimited Staff and the Camp Kenan Staff to do all the necessary good things to make people, companies and organizations that help us during the fifty one weeks that lead up to the actual Camp…the work that is done at raffles, events, golf tournaments and donations…to keep the light shining bright. I have to thank everyone that had any part in our ongoing success story…all I hope for is that the bright light is maintained for the people that are less fortunate that is in the future. I thank one and all for your help…Thank you from the bottom of my heart!



Camp Happiness 2013 Stories

Andrew Johnson, Senior Counselor, Camp Kenan:
At the beginning of the week, I found two four leaf clovers in one day, which provided the whole camp with good luck for the week. Everyday Claire (a camper) would ask the same questions repeatedly such as "where’s my paper?”. She would also call me Siggy Pants occasionally when I tried to ask her knock-knock jokes. My favorite story this week was watching another camper who uses a wheelchair try to join in on soccer and successfully kicked the ball.

Morgan Bussenger, Camp Kenan Staff:
Watching one of my campers race and have her face light up like there was no tomorrow was the best. Just to see her smile and be so excited that she won. I enjoyed watching another camper, and the rest of the group, do paddle boats with the Elks staff, watching them just go around in circles but yet still have the times of their lives.

Stephanie O’Cestolo, Counselor, Camp Kenan:
I already had a little experience with people with disabilities, but this was the first time I worked with so many. They were all an amazing group. As with many, there are complications, but that never held back a whole day of fun. My story would be the whole week, meeting my group, finding out their positives and strengths and helping build on that. The last day compared to the first was a different experience; as I clapped and cheered for the many friends I got to meet.

Sydney Davey, Camp Kenan Staff:
My favorite part about Camp Happiness was helping teach the track meet. While I was walking around asking what everyone wanted to do they were all so excited and couldn’t wait to line up and run. Another favorite part was when my group and another one all just started camp songs even if they didn’t know the words and just loved jamming it.

Holly Martin, Counselor, Camp Kenan:
My absolute favorite camper was Elise. She uses a wheelchair and had the biggest heart and smile. Throughout the week she did many activities she normally couldn’t do such as a 50-yard dash. I will never forget her smile while running in her electric wheelchair to the finish line. We would always play games where she poked me when I wasn’t looking and she wheeled away as fast as possible. She was honestly the happiest girl I have ever seen and she brightened my day. On the last day while getting on the bus she gave me the sign for “I love you” “and I will miss you”. It made me sad to see her go, but I am so glad she had such a great time.

Clearesta Travis, Counselor, Camp Kenan:
One of my favorite moments was when my group was playing basketball and one of the participants was faced off against an O.U. staff member in a game. The participant weaved through the staff member’s defense like it was nothing and easily cleared a path to his goal. Another of my favorite moments was when we did rock climbing. Many participants made it to the top despite things like fear, inexperience, and doubts causing them difficulty. One of them was the smallest of the group, shorter than me, and she reached the top too.

Sara Walter, Camp Kenan Staff:
Camp Happiness is my favorite week to work at camp. The participants enjoy doing every activity and seeing staff members each day. It’s exciting to get up every day knowing that we will be the people to make the participants happy. This is my third time working Camp Happiness and I am so thankful to have the opportunity each year. I look forward meeting such great people and seeing the participants that come back year after year. It’s fun sharing everyone’s stories from the week.

Marissa Pallnat, Camp Kenan Staff:
I only come two days because of conflicts. The one day I celebrated my birthday. The tradition of throwing the birthday person in the pool was very exciting to the participants. They loved it! Thought it was so fun and they enjoyed it even though it was freezing for me. After all Camp is for the Campers.

Nate Hinds, Camp Kenan Staff:
One of the best moments of my week was watching Michael climb into a paddle boat at water front. The boat was still on shore before he was pushed off, and he was absolutely ecstatic just to be sitting in the boat. He couldn’t stop saying how much fun he was having and how much he loved it.

Ann Buffington, Counselor, Camp Kenan:
One of my favorite moments at Camp Happiness was at the dance party seeing C.C. out on the dance floor with about one other person dancing like crazy and not caring about what anyone thought. She danced right along, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Another time, Connie G. was out on the basketball courts and literally every shot she took she made, and I was amazed because I can’t make a shot to save my life. All-in-all I loved to see everyone smiling and having a good time even if they were in a wheelchair and couldn’t participate in everything. It really made me glad to be a part of it all, knowing I’m helping to make those people as happy as they were here at Camp.

Nici Rutland, Camp Kenan Staff:
Crystal was very hesitant to climb the rock wall! She kept changing her mind before she actually got on. Once she was on she did such an awesome job and was so excited she actually did it.

Milna C. Yera, Camp Kenan Staff:
Most of my participants spend their time inside. So simply going outside (something most take for granted) made them glow. Seeing Michael beaming while we hiked made me feel that I did my job.

 

Camp Happiness 2012 Stories

Ricky Benthin, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Wheatfield:
Favorite camp activities were: swimming; basketball, and art. I like the camp shirts and party on Friday! Would like to play baseball sometime at camp. I liked watching the boats in the water and planting with Bob.

Debbie Snyder, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
I enjoyed the lunches. I also liked the arts and crafts classes and the horse and buggy ride. I wish the day at camp was longer to do more activities.

Ray Zimmerman, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
I enjoyed the dancing, arts and crafts classes, and the greenhouse activity. The staff was very helpful and nice. The lunches were good. I really liked the camp songs around the campfire. The fire truck with the hose was great because I was able to cool off.

Alan Montanari, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
I enjoyed participating with the arts and crafts. I enjoyed eating lunch with my friends.  Cooling off with the hose from the fire truck was enjoyable. The picnic and swimming were fun. I really liked that my brother came to camp on family day.

Karen A., program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
I liked camp. It was fun. I like to swim, the water was cold, but I like to swim. It was very hot, but when I swim it makes me cool. The food was good but my Mom cooks better. I want to go next year.

Stephanie F., program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
I enjoyed going to Camp Happiness. The best part of camp this year was going swimming. I walked and was able to get lots of exercise. I also enjoyed lunch, especially the pizza & pasta. I can’t wait to go next year.

Danielle Kloosterman, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
It was my first time at camp and I enjoyed the whole week. I really like the fire truck, canoeing and singing around the camp fire. I enjoyed doing arts and crafts and made a hat frame. I loved the food and the awards ceremony. All of the Camp staff were very friendly.

John Zieziula, Camp Happiness Program Manager, Elks Lodge #41 Lockport:
When anyone considers the happy times at camp that our campers have--and the smiles on their faces--a big thank you was to be extended to the Elk Volunteers, Opportunities Unlimited staff and the Camp Kenan staff for making it all possible. They make Camp Happiness happen and I thank them all for their enthusiasm and desire to make Camp Happiness a success.

Samantha Haney, Day Hab staff, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport location:
We all loved the fire truck and campfire. Seeing the smiles on everyone’s face -- from our individuals, to the volunteers, to Camp Kenan staff, and to our staff. Thank you for another great year!

Mary Jo Iorfida, Day Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls location:
I enjoyed going to camp with the individuals. They enjoyed all of the different activities available. I did like the horse and buggy ride. I loved the day they had the fire truck. I also enjoyed being able to go swimming with the individuals. The staff and volunteers at camp were very helpful and friendly too.

Jamie Miller, Day Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls location:
The participants loved camp. They enjoyed the whole week! They liked singing around the camp fire and swimming in the pool.

Maggie Glenn, Camp Kenan Counselor:
On Wednesday, my campers had the opportunity to go in the lake. The best part was when Howard and Stephen, who were not sure it they would be able to make the steep climb on the path to the lake, made it to paddle boats. They did it and it was so awesome to see how much fun they had.

Victoria Swift, Camp Kenan Counselor:
Watching all of the participants receive their awards on Friday was a great moment during Camp Happiness. Seeing the joy on their faces just showed how much fun all the participants had this week. It was definitely a huge highlight of the week.

Maria Cirello, Camp Kenan Counselor: 
When Camp Happiness started I was excited to see what my group was going to be like. I found out it was the exact group I had last year. Talk about pumped! It was kike the gang got back together!! There is a man in the group Richard who was born in early June, and he remembered my birthday from the year before. He is one of the most caring, polite and all around nice guy I’ve ever met. Spending the week with him has been very entertaining. This year I heard Richard laugh for the first time and it brought a smile to my face.

Sara Walter, Camp Kenan Counselor:
Thursday we had a dance party that all the participants were really excited about all week. When the DJ played a song everyone liked they got real excited and happy. Also, the participants got really excited to sleep over at camp. We did a lot of activities they loved. Camp Happiness was a great experience. You can tell that the participants really enjoy coming to camp each day.

Victoria Swift, Camp Kenan Counselor:
During the week we had many good things that happened. One was that all the participants were excited to experience the horse and carriage ride. They all enjoyed being able to do something that they would not normally be able to do. During Camp Happiness there were many thinks that went on that were success stories. When the fire truck came to camp on Wednesday, there were a lot of participants that came out of their shells.

Megan Ducey, Camp Kenan Counselor:
I absolutely love Camp Happiness because of the smiles I see from the people who are participating in the activities. A simple high-five makes their day so much better and I love making that difference!

Mary Brady, Camp Kenan Counselor:
I love seeing the campers open up and really have a good time. They start to smile and laugh more and you really get to know them.

John Chiavaro, Camp Kenan Counselor:
Many campers in my group were quite withdrawn. At the beginning of the week they were content to sit and talk amongst themselves. However, on Wednesday we brought them to the paddle boats on the lake. After watching the first participant go, they all wanted to try! By the end of the activity period all of them successfully made it out onto the lake. Smiles and high-fives were shared and everyone was so happy!

Ryan Ende, Athletics/Archery Director Camp Kenan:
One of my favorite things is seeing the participants get super excited to see the staff. We don’t have to be doing more than just waking by and their faces light-up. They are really excited to be here and their faces tell their story. Knowing they love the staff makes me feel like I’m having an impact on their lives.

Camp Happiness 2011 Stories

Amanda Schumacher, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I love camp because all the activities in the camp like the sleepover, the climbing wall, kickball, singing dancing, swimming and camp fire.

Program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Recreation:
I had a wonderful time at Camp Happiness and wish the camp could be open twice a year instead of once.  Even an overnight during a weekend would be great. After a day at camp my family says that I am all smiles and excited about the next day.

Claire G, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Camping for 3 years! I like to make the handprint banner, and arts & crafts. I liked to look at the horses but not go for a ride in the rain. All the staff are nice. Bingo was really fun! Love the salad bar. I want the accordion player to ply ‘O Suzanna’.

Joseph Sullivan, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Swimming was so cool. I had fun.

Lisa Tribunella, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Camp Happiness was great even in the rain. They made it fun. The camp fire was fun, the sleep over was nice, and the food was good. All the activities they had were great. The counselors were funny. I hope to come back next year.

Program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
3 years in a row and I love camp! My favorites are the boats and bingo. I liked the accordion player and dances.

Darin H, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I have come to camp for 3 years. I love everything especially the overnight camping. At the campfire we ate s’mores and sang songs. During the day I like to swim, play basketball and go on the horse/carriage ride. I really want camp to stay open for a long time because it is so much fun. And the food is good too! The volunteers are really nice, and next year I want to invite my girlfriend!

Gary Girard, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
Had a great night – we slept over. I loved swimming. Still want to go on the boats. I did karaoke and basketball. Got all the way up on the rock wall. The people there are really nice and I have a lot of friends here. Right now I am going to go on the horse ride and have some more fun!

John Zieziula, Project Coordinator, Elks Lodge #41 Lockport
Just being at Camp Happiness, watching the events unfold with the Campers, is a sight to behold… the smiles generated, beyond any doubt, tell a story of the campers wanting to have the special fun that they do not normally take part in. I am sure by their enthusiasm, that they look forward to Camp Happiness and the wall climbing, horse rides, swimming, canoe rides, dancing, crafts and many other fun events…and the fantastic food …the lunches that are served are always a hit. Being there and being a part of Camp Happiness is what drives me to keep this alive …all for our wonderful campers.

Donna McMichael, Elk’s Volunteer
I was filled with wonderment watching the first few buses arrive and seeing the anxious and happy faces of former campers along with the amazement on the faces of the new campers.

Watching the first few buses arrive and seeing the anxious and happy faces of former campers and amazement on new camper’s wonderment.  Having campers remember us from last year is just amazing to me.  I look forward to this week just as much as they do and love all the new friends and workers I meet.

The change in Jennifer from always standoffish and always sticking out her tongue at you, warming up, smiling and even hugging – happy and dancing.

Tara – a very sweet girl – coming out of her shell and talking to me with answers after days of staring.

Campers in the paddle boats were having a completely fun ride and less fear than the canoes – thanks to Luke for all the new things and grants he received for camp.

The singing accordion player at lunch was great.  I saw Clare and Ruth and many more singing tunes from their younger years with such joy and remembrance – awesome!

The crafts were a great hit with such creativity.  Cheryl – making a basket at basketball was top notch – what excitement for her and us!

Bryce McMichael, Elk’s Volunteer
One day on the paddle boats there was a young girl who was told by a young man in the group that he was going to paddle faster than her.  She was bound and determined that was not going to happen.  She paddled full tilt and we were much faster than his boat.  She had a big smile on her face the whole time and did not want to stop, even though another group had arrived.  I loved her enthusiasm and my legs were worn out after that paddle boat ride.

Mark Albiez, Executive Director, Lockport YMCA & Camp Kenan
Our Mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy Spirit, Mind and Body for all! For all people is our destination and we strive every day to work toward that end.

Working together to improve the quality of life for all people…our collaboration with the Elks #41 and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara has brought joy, physical accomplishments and a sense of renewed purpose to our staff.

We do this by helping the campers with developmental disabilities: develop a sense of belonging; learn from caring adult role models; honor the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, and improve their essential life skills.

We have seen more smiles…more joy...more success stories, which in turn have created memories for all…that will last a lifetime! Happiness shines brightly upon all who attend Camp!
                                                                                    
Mike Shurmatz, Program Director, Camp Kenan/Lockport YMCA staff
On Thursday afternoon our staff set up a sound system and speaker with microphone on our outdoor basketball court. We had a dance and singing for the participants. After playing only one song we had several people dancing and even more requesting songs to sing along too. The participants showed a good deal of energy and enthusiasm during the dance. Everyone was jumping, stomping, throwing hands up, and doing The Macarena, letting loose and having a great time. Everyone who sang was cheered on during and after their song. The group dynamic was awesome, and I think it was one of the highlights of this week.

Dounia Cleaver, Program Instructor, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara
I have been attending Camp Happiness since it first began. The guys love this week and look forward to it every year. It is a highlight of the summer for our guys!

Heather London, Program Instructor, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara
My favorite part was going on the paddle boats with our guys. They had a blast. I am happy to be a part of that. My other favorite part was dancing with everyone.

Sonya Gates, Assistant Director, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara
I don’t have one specific event to list as a favorite as the campers overall had a great time.  I have heard many compliments on the addition of the flag raising and campfire to the day’s activities.  The YMCA staff did an excellent job especially changing things up to account for the rainy days.  Hats off to Luke and the counselors for a well run camp.

This by far was the best Camp Happiness.  I was sad and disappointed that I could not attend the full week as this has been loads of fun and good times.  This week reminded me of why I have worked at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara all these years – it has renewed my desire to make a difference.  Seeing the campers laughing, singing and trying new things has been great.  Spending time with the campers, counselors, volunteers and staff has been wonderful and I am thankful to have been able to participate in Camp 2011.

Lisa Scalzo, Director of Aging and Day Services, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara:
I have been involved in camp since its inception. This year was packed with an excellent variety of activities that most everyone could participate in. Due to individual preferences and abilities it is difficult to keep a lot of activity going at once. But with the amount of activities held simultaneously (5 or 6 activities) this need was met! It was amazing to see people up young as 10 up thru 91 benefiting from the camp. Big thank you to all who coordinated and volunteered – Amazing!

Candace Seelbinder, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
I had the pleasure of taking Burton K. and Michael D. to Camp Happiness this year. The weather held up and it was beautiful. They enjoyed the campfire, songs, songs during lunch, making notecards and receiving fake tattoos. Michael was able to enjoy his first horse and carriage ride. The staff at Camp Happiness was so energetic and enthused it certainly made the campers’ day; they all left with smiles on their faces and wished they could have stayed longer.

Shannon McNerney, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
On the day we went to Camp Happiness not only was it beautiful outside by the lake, but my specific camper I took absolutely enjoyed himself. When we arrived he got to make a visor with staff’s help due to his blindness. He wore it with great joy all day long. He also enjoyed the songs that were sung in the mess hall and also the food. It is nice to have a place to bring them that puts a smile on their faces regardless of their “disability”.

Robert Karson, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
My favorite part of camp was seeing just how much fun our campers had there. In particular was how one older participant from my room had so much fun. Being blind, it is more challenging to involve him in activities than your average person, but being around all the singing and bustle of activity at camp he had a smile ten miles wide. At one point the camp staff was stomping around the mess hall and singing a song and this camper started laughing and smiling and looking happier than I’ve ever seen him. His smile pretty much summed up the whole point of camp by itself.

Susan Broughton, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
I attended Camp Happiness with Jake and Stan. Jake O. had a blast. After lunch (which he enjoyed a second helping of) a roving musician stopped at our table singing and playing the accordion. Jake was clapping and stomping his feet and laughing. Jake is almost 80 years old and prefers a calm quiet environment, however, the magic of Camp Happiness brought out a side of Jake I had not seen before. I hope he’s able to attend next year.

Stan N. attended camp for two days. He talked non-stop about it in the days leading up to “camp days”. Upon our arrival he immediately wanted to make a sun visor and talk with the volunteers. Stan talked about Lake Niagara and he knows Canada is on the other side. Stan ate more lunch than I’d ever seen him eat (the meal is always delicious) and made friends with several volunteers who were always friendly and helpful.

Carlvetta Alston, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
This was my first year at Camp Happiness. All the campers seemed to enjoy themselves. Jean P. enjoyed playing toss the ring. They all seemed to enjoy the singing and the campfire. Smiles were everywhere during arts and crafts and lunch. The highlight of Camp Happiness was when they were presented their t-shirts and certificates.

Evie Kresman, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
The experience of Camp Happiness in most part was a very good one. The sing-a-longs on the bus as well as at Camp Kenan were both enjoyable and memorable. All the oldies but goodies. The campfire was exceptionally enjoyable.

Mary Jo Iorfida, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
Our camper Liz G. enjoyed Camp Happiness. She really enjoyed the horse and buggy ride. She also enjoyed doing the arts and crafts. Liz also participated in the singing after lunch. She was very excited to receive her certificate and shirt.

Paula N. told me she really enjoyed the camp fire and making s’mores. She also expressed how she enjoyed the lunches and the sing-along after lunch. Paula also enjoyed the horse and buggy ride. She is looking forward to next year.

Catherine Owens, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
I attended Camp Happiness with Sherwood M., Stanley S. and Karen H. The experience was very nice and it was good for the participants to get out of the classroom and to do something different. Especially when it is something so enjoyable. They made nice arts and crafts, most of our campers enjoy eating and the meals at camp were very delicious, with a great salad bar. The bus rides to and from the camp were great, I look forward to going again next year.

Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
The staff and participants enjoyed everything about Camp Happiness. The food, games, activities, pool, camp fire, etc. were so much fun. It was a pleasure to be there, hope to see you there again next year.

Sandy Thomas, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
This was my second year attending Camp Happiness. It was very fun and the individuals I had with me really seemed to enjoy themselves. The ride down there is fun and pretty. We went on the horse and buggy ride. The horses were really big and beautiful. I think the part the campers liked the best is the food. It’s always very good. Camp was a very fun and positive experience. My favorite part is seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces. I’m looking forward to going next year.

Rena Scharlau, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
This was my first experience at camp. We really enjoyed the experience with the camp fire and arts and crafts.

Mario Nobilio, Day-Hab Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
Everyone that I saw at camp was having a great time. All the staff and volunteers were so helpful and made everyone who went feel very welcomed. One of my memories was doing the sing-a-longs near the fire pit and also swimming. The person I had swimming with me appeared to really enjoy it and smiled the entire time.


Camp Happiness 2010 Stories

Gary Girard, program participant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I like art. My favorite (activity) was the horse & wagon ride. I stayed overnight and had two pancakes. I want to stay overnight again. I liked the campfire and smores.

Donna McMichael, Elk’s Volunteer – craft area +:
It was very uplifting for me to work with such a wonderful staff and volunteers. Giving to others is very gratifying. The happiness on the faces of the campers was a much needed gift.

Steve Joslyn, Program Coordinator Subcontracting/Pre-voc, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
It was exciting to see all the campers enjoying the water from the fire truck, swimming in the pool and watching them socialize. Camp Happiness is truly inspiring.

Jim Matteson, Recreation Manager, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
During the overnight stay, I was in the cabin with five male campers. Everyone was asleep when I sneezed. One of the campers said, “God bless you Jim.” I don’t know how he knew it was me, but it was a very touching moment for me.

Evelyn Kresman, Program Instructor, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
This was an excellent experience for my program participants and they are already talking about going back next year!

Jenny Loncki, Day Habilitation Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
Camp was a lot of fun! The program participants and employees really enjoyed it. The pool was great and so was the food. We really enjoyed the trails, the swings and all of the different activities that were going on. It was a real pleasure to attend camp and I hope I get to go again next year. Thank you to all of the volunteers and camp staff!

David Burton, Day Habilitation Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
Smiles and caring was a gift given throughout the day by everyone at camp.

Susan Broughton, Program Instructor, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara – Day Services, Wheatfield:
Three program participants from my group – Senior Suite A – attended camp Happiness for 2-3 days each. Each person said they enjoyed visors, jewelery making, face painting and the horse & Buggy ride. Lunch was a big hit as well – plenty of delicious food! Everyone had fun and the volunteers from the Elks did a wonderful job interacting with our campers – very helpful and positive.


John Richter, Food Service Manager/Cook, Camp Kenan/Lockport YMCA staff:
The past three summers the Camp has been host to a wonderful group, appropriately named “Camp Happiness”. The perspective that I have had is one of joy and fulfillment. Joy in watching volunteers, counselors, staff, and most of all campers enjoy a week of adventure and fun. My compliments go to all those participating, sponsoring as well as coordinating this special time. I look forward every summer to servicing this group with lunch and a small group of “overnighters” breakfast and dinner with great fulfillment. My hope is to be part of many more summers opening Camp Kenan and welcoming “Camp Happiness”.

Scott Literman, Camp Counselor, Camp Kenan/Lockport YMCA staff:
This was my second year working Camp Happiness. This is probably the most morally rewarding weeks I have during the year. During my experiences with the participants, I have learned a great deal about the different levels of functionalities that members have, which has vastly changed my outlook on how I viewed them previously. I never knew that they could be as outgoing as they really were. From the second they get off the bus on Monday morning it is non-stop excitement and fun for everyone. I always thought that they would be kind of nervous to interact with all of us strangers, or to be in a location which many of them have never been before, but their reactions were the exact opposite. They immediately started running up to us and the Elks talking to us and asking what they would be doing that day. The awesome part was that may of them remembered us from the previous year. This showed me that what we were doing there was really important to them. Never once did I hear one of them say that they didn’t want to do a certain thing.

One of my most memorable moments from Camp Happiness this last summer was when a camper decided to slap on a harness and climb our 50 foot tall rock wall. Many participants this week did the same, but what makes him my most memorable climber is the fact that he only has one hand. He was so ecstatic about giving his best that how high he got, which was at least 10 feet, he wasn’t scared. The entire time he was climbing everyone there, the staff, the volunteers, and every last participant was cheering him on. That is one of my favorite times.

Camp Happiness is a great idea because it brings an experience to the participants who would without it, probably never have it. The smiles on the faces of everyone who is part of Camp Happiness never dwindles throughout the week. It is a truly amazing experience which I am so proud to be a part of.

Bridget Laszewski, Waterfront Director, Camp Kenan/Lockport YMCA staff:
My experiences at Camp Happiness the last two years have been amazing! I saw so many returning faces and so many excited faces. The participants love the week and so do the staff, not just Camp Kenan staff but I never saw one frown the entire week from any of the Elks or Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara workers. Right when the participants got off the bus they were waving and so excited to be there, they would go inside the mess hall and make their craft, then it was time to get busy with the days activities. Once they saw carriage rides or pool time on the schedule their faces just lite up. At the end of the week when it was time for the closing ceremony and everyone got their shirt, there were some wet eyes in the room, including myself. I made a real connection this year a camper “K”. She and I met the first day and she decided by the end of the week the ladies on the Camp Kenan staff and her were all adopted sisters. At the end of the week she wrote us all a letter. I still have that letter and I don't think I will ever get rid of it. I know she touched me in a very special way with her warm smile and very bubbly attitude. I hope I touched her in a special way too. I am so excited to have just been a part of Camp Happiness for the last two years and I know I have grown as an adult by working there and I have seen the participants grow too.

Krista Wagoner, Camp Kenan/Lockport YMCA staff:
This was my first time working Camp Happiness and it turned out to be one of my favorite weeks of the summer. It is such a great time for the campers as they get to participate in a variety of activities they may not normally partake in. The moment they get off the bus they are smiling and busy having fun. I personally had a great time working with them, watching them open up, push their boundaries and try new things. My most memorable moment was flying kites with one of the campers “T”. At the beginning of the week she wouldn’t say a word to me, no matter how much I talked to her. But she slowly started opening up and having conversations. By the end of the week she was the one showing me how to fly a kite. I sincerely hope Camp Happiness continues to take place for years to come. It is truly a special week and a rewarding experience for all.



Camp Happiness 2009 Stories

Laura Boyd, Day Habilitation Assistant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
One of the participants was so excited to be in a canoe. As Leo was paddling he said, “He felt like he was the captain of a ship exploring the world like Christopher Columbus.”

Gwen Tucker, Day Habilitation Assistant, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Niagara Falls:
While at Camp Happiness I had a really good time. I got to meet different staff and other program particiapnts. I enjoy helping them making hats and playing different games. The most exciting thing was watching Leo, Stephanie and Ken swim. They had a contest and Leo won. I would like to participate each year.

Samantha Haney, Day Habilitation Specialist, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
I would have to say if I had to choose one of my favorite times at Camp Happiness it would be watching all of the smiling faces in the swimming pool. The campers’ faces never looked so happy!

Gary G., camper:
I had a great time at camp and am looking forward to attending next year. I want to thank all the volunteers and sponsors.

Fred Kanehl, Planning Committee Member, Camp Volunteer, Elk Member:
I had the pleasure of spending time with a camper who uses a wheelchair. I had the honor of taking her around the camp one day. We went from the dining hall to the canoe launch area. The idea was for her to look out over Lake Ontario and watch the campers in the canoes; including the accidental flipping(s) which she thought was funny. Next, as I was wheeling her back to the main area the Hartland Carriage Ride was returning with other campers. We waited so she could see the giant horses up close. When they stopped we went over so she could try to pet one. The horse had blinders on but I sensed he heard me as he lowered his head and twisted it over so she could pet him, which she did. He then lowered his head and nuzzled her knee. I told her he was giving her a kiss. There was no doubt that this horse had a sense of her challenges and was going out of his way to be show affection to her. The owners agreed with me when I told them the story, they said they have been amazed how the horses react sometimes to individuals with disabilities. It was a remarkable thing to have witnessed.

James Bronstein, Director Day, Clinical & Supported Employment Services East, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Lockport:
As part of the steering committee I found it personally gratifying to see all our efforts culminate in a perfect week of smiles. Everywhere I looked I found campers that were engaged and excited about their choice of activity be it the hayride or canoeing, all I saw was miles of smiles! Seeing the response of the program participants has been a joyful experience for me and I look forward to the camp experience next year.


Camp Happiness 2008 Stories

Joanne Hayes, Volunteer:
I was an Elk volunteer for two days at Camp Happiness and I am so disappointed that my schedule wouldn't allow me to be there the whole week. This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. On the first day I had a hard time keeping back the tears. The excitement and smiles on the faces of the candidates for the simplest things; just watching the Camp Leaders sing a song, then the candidates joining in clapping and singing and this was just the beginning of a wonderful relationship. I have to commend the young Group Leaders from the camp -- they were so patient and positive with all the participants. When we were on the tour of the grounds, one of the young men stated to his Opportunities staff person "he was having fun today". Also, on our walk through the woods M. sang "George George George of the Jungle" and I made the comment, that's a good song. The next thing I knew R. was behind me and sang the whole song of George of the Jungle and then informed me that it was from a 1960's cartoon! Today we played on the basketball court and everyone was pretty athletic including K. who was in a wheelchair. In the afternoon they were climbing the rock wall. One girl M., wasn't even going to go inside the building but after watching, she too climbed the wall. It was amazing the courage that these candidates have. They are so unselfish and encouraging with each other, we could all learn from their innocence. I asked A. if she liked the camp and she said, "I Love It and I don't want it to end"! I feel like I am the one who gained from this experience. Next year you can be sure my schedule will be open for the whole week of Camp Happiness. I feel like I'm rambling on but, it's so hard to express all the things that happened in these two short days that will stay in my heart forever. Thank you for this opportunity.

Darlene Chas, Craft Instructor:
Today was the first day at Camp Happiness and my first day as a volunteer. I was a little nervous and I had no idea what to expect. We had a few setbacks, i.e. the bus got lost, and they were late but finally made it to the camp. Once they got there and I saw their beautiful faces and smiles in awe of the camp on the lake, I knew I made the right decision to volunteer. I don’t know who had more fun, the campers or me. Each day a group of 8 or 16 came to our craft cabin and we are making camping visors with our assistance and direction. They did great. Now they have a gift to wear with pride and remembrance of Camp Happiness to take home with them.

Neita McViegh, Craft Leader:
The campers were enjoying painting and decorating their visors. Their smile when they finish and see their faces in the mirror is worth 1,000 words. They have amazing creativity and color sense. They are proud to show off their work at the end of our sessions and we decorated the craft room with their work so on Friday when their parents come, they will see with their own eyes the pride and personal growth and satisfaction of their sons and daughters. What a great experience to be a part of; this is an honor.

Toni Stein, Craft Instructor:
Crafts today were in the main hall so we had wheelchair accessibility because it’s the only building at camp that is wheelchair accessible. The campers enjoyed craft time creating their visors, painting on construction paper and displaying their work.

Judy Brounscheidel, Volunteer (Day 1):
As the campers walked down the path to the mess hall, just getting off the bus their faces showed excitement and some a little scared of the beginning of a new experience. In my group were D. & B., whom I know through Challenger Baseball. As usual D. was the spokesperson for the group. His caring for his “girlfriend” T. is very touching. B. had his usual smile. M. has become my challenge – not speaking, but as I got his food he seemed to manage two helpings of everything. I placed the ball in front of him and you could tell he loved kicking the ball with a smile. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Judy Brounscheidel, Volunteer (Day 2):
M. has started coming out of his shell. He ate four helpings of rice by pushing his plate towards me not being able to say a word. He participated in kickball and tracing my hand with chalk on the blacktop. C. is doing well today. The first day he just walked around and talked to himself. Today he played kickball, colored with chalk and I never saw him talking to himself and being alone. He was enjoying himself.

Judy Brounscheidel, Volunteer (Day 3):
Everybody is enjoying camp with lots of smiles and high fives. Today was craft day for our group. Everyone decorated visors. M. and C. seemed to be so proud of their hats. They have come a long way since the first day. C. even climbed the rock wall. T. and D. made it to the top. T. (our quiet one) even climbed. K. tells everyone that he and I had made taco salads. He loves to eat. He brings his lunch and then eats camp food. We are all enjoying ourselves.

Judy Brounscheidel, Volunteer (Day 4):
Today was the big day to climb the big wall outside. A. almost made it to the top with everyone cheering him on. After lunch everyone went outside for a dance. T. (our quiet, shy one) came out of her shell and danced like a pro. What rhythm. Too bad D. wasn’t there, as le loves to dance.

Judy Brounscheidel, Volunteer (Day 5):
The last day of camp comes with sadness and joy. Everyone loved his or her awards and t-shirts. We all left with heavy hearts but with “happiness” that this week had given us. We will be back next year.


 
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