His Kids camp gives campers with disabilities the camp experience with the help of volunteers. Photo by Kimberly Sleeper.
by Abigail Wisniewski
His Kids Camp welcomes individuals of all ages with special needs onto the Camp Luther grounds for three weekends a year, full of hiking, canoeing, games, campfires, s’mores and singing.
“The most important thing is giving them the camp experience in a Christ-centered environment,” sophomore volunteer Daniel Hakes said. “Camp Luther did a great job of providing that through different games and activities and just many different ways of connecting them together as a group, but also to Christ.”
Special Education Program Director Amanda Geidel sends about 20 student volunteers to each weekend, where they help guide and build relationships with a camper buddy. This also gives Concordia students the chance to learn about working with individuals with disabilities through hands on experience.
“The camp experience is good because it’s full submersion for 24 hours a day for two full days, living with people who live differently,” Geidel said. “It’s maybe a more impactful field experience because of that.”
Hakes is a middle level math and history major. Though he’s not majoring in special education, he believes the His Kids experience will be useful to him as a teacher.
“Anytime you can get experience like that is going to benefit you just because you never know what you’re going to come up against in the future,” Hakes said. “It opened my eyes to the fact that there are cases where students have a hard time learning, and you still have to connect with them, it’s just finding those ways to connect.”
“I think most come back and they think they got more out of it than the people they came to help,” Geidel said. “They learn that people with disabilities have feelings and enjoy life the same as you and I do.”
The camp also provides opportunities for campers’ spiritual growth, which Geidel sees reflected in the volunteers as well.
“They’ll come to the realization that people with disabilities need God the same way that we do or that they have faith walks just like you and I do,” Geidel said. “Some people are touched by the way that the campers sing so spiritually and when comparing yourself as a college student to a camper with a disability, (you maybe feel) a bit like ‘Wow, they’re more faithful than I am.'”