This summer has been particularly special for Jett Foundation, as we were able to be on the ground and face-to-face at Camp Promise once again. Additionally, we were able to add two Camp Promise Retreats to our five-stop camp tour in Arizona and Ohio. These brand new Camp Promise Retreats are geared toward adults ages 18 or older who live with Duchenne or other neuromuscular disorders.
The development of Camp Promise Retreat emerged from an unmet need observed by Jodi Wolff and Jackie Simcic-Becker in their local camp communities in Arizona and Ohio. Both camp directors witnessed the challenges experienced by older campers and parents as they aged out of the camp programs they attended as children.
“Camp Promise Retreat Arizona has been a dream four years in the making and was postponed twice due to COVID. We are thrilled that we were able to hold our first in-person retreat,” says Jodi Wolff, Director of Camp Promise Retreat Arizona.
Camp Promise Retreat Arizona, from July 27-31, was nothing short of a success! We welcomed an amazing group of seasoned camp volunteers and a few new volunteers who are now an essential part of our camp family. In total, 16 campers and 19 volunteers came to our retreat at the stunning Whispering Hope Ranch in Payson, AZ. For some campers, this was their first time being back at camp since their teenage years.
“My favorite thing about camp was being back with all my friends that I’ve made over the years and being able to catch up and see how they’ve been,” says Whitney, who spent her retreat as a camper in the purple cabin. Arizona’s Retreat was split into red, blue, pink, green, and purple cabins.
Once campers settled in, we kicked off our jam-packed week. Each morning after breakfast, Camp Promise Retreat in Arizona had an educational session aimed toward young adults called “The Campfire Cafe.” Most of the campers enjoyed the escape room games the most, where cabins competed against each other to solve mysteries and use clues to break free. We were also able to have Yoga in the Pines visit us to do some adaptive yoga.
Throughout our retreat, Arizona campers made cabin mailboxes, decorated cabin flags, created candles, tie-dyed shirts, and painted pictures. To add to our colorful experience, campers dressed in all white clothing and dumped colored powder onto each other during a color war. Campers wrapped up their magical retreat with a nightclub-themed dance.
Green cabin camper David Smickle says his favorite part was “Rejoining and regrouping with friends to see how they did these past few years.”
“I would say my favorite activity was wheelchair soccer,” says Eileen, a camp counselor and cabin leader. This was Eileen’s first year with Camp Promise, but she has been a camp counselor since 2011.
When asked about how becoming a counselor impacted her, Eileen told us: “At my first camp in 2011, I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life, and we’re still friends to this day. [Camp] has kind of just created a whole community for me.”
Jodi Wolff says, “As a camp director you get to be the facilitator of this magic. We spend hours organizing all the little details before camp… But when you get to camp and see the friendships that are made, the laughs that are shared, the absolute freedom that campers feel in a fully accessible environment – that’s the magic.”
Jett Foundation looks forward to hosting more retreats as part of our Camp Promise programming in the future. Camp experiences would not be possible without our dedicated campers, volunteers, and sponsors. Thank you to the Dunkin Joy in Childhood Foundation, The Flatley Foundation, PTC Therapeutics, Sarepta Therapeutics, and Yale Appliance for supporting this year’s Camp Promise Retreats.