Three years ago Heather Warner dropped her scared 14-year-old off at summer camp in Bloomington.
“I pretty much told her she was going,” Warner said with a laugh.
She tried to get Cassidy to go years before. It would be the opportunity of a lifetime for her daughter. The girl wasn’t interested.
Warner admitted she had her own reservations at first. She’s not really comfortable leaving Cassidy in anyone else’s care. Her daughter, now 16, has a severe disability that affects her ability to communicate and move around.
Most of her life, Cassidy and her family thought summer camp was out of the question. Then they found out about Camp Riley.
For 58 years, the Riley Children’s Foundation has been providing a traditional camp experience to children with physical disabilities.
Since 1955, 12,000 children have called Camp Riley their home away from home. This year, the camp will host 223 campers from 57 Indiana counties and seven states.
Cassidy will be among them.
Only this time the Kokomo teen won’t be afraid.
By the end of that first camp three years ago, she had fallen in love with it, her mom said.
“She didn’t want to come home yet,” she said.
Warner said there were horses and camp songs and lakes with pontoon boats that campers went out on. There was swimming and even a zip line that Cassidy rode through the trees.
There was a sensory cave with lights and a pit of stuffed animals she could lie in. There was even adaptive equipment that would have allowed Cassidy, who is confined to a wheelchair, to climb a rock tower. She hasn’t chosen to do that yet, her mother said.
The goal is to help campers do those things they never thought they’d be able to.