Rainbow Express is sponsored by a local church. I do not know how long they have been sponsoring this camp, but the model they use works. Each camper (special needs child) has a buddy (typical developing child, same age as camper) and a teenage counselor. They spend the week together playing, worshipping and becoming friends. Each day is jam-packed with arts & crafts, park visits, dancing, singing and always ends with a custom-made puppet show. Roughly 75 campers participate - so this is no small group.
The youth of this church plan and execute this camp. They spend a large portion of their year planning for this week. Although adults volunteer and help during the week, the majority of the program is completed by the youth.
The theme this year was "Be Strong," taken from Ephesians 6:10, "Be strong in the Lord and His great power." The entire church was turned into a castle.
The week is always a reunion - everyone wants to see their past camper, buddy or counselor. Parents meet up and have coffee to catch-up on news. Stress is low, connections high. This week, when I pick up Ben at the end of a 6 hour day, he pushes me away. He wants to stay longer. There is no shortage of love, hugs and warmth in the church gymnasium - who wants to leave that?