Fort Mill Times

Stepping Stones makes strides, memories at Camp Thunderbird

Gracie Camp, 7, climbs a wall at Camp Thunderbird.
Gracie Camp, 7, climbs a wall at Camp Thunderbird. jmarks@lakewyliepilot.com

By the sound of it, there was no telling whether Caleb Brown hung there ecstatic or terrified. Brown, 12, cleared the air once he finished zipping.

“I wasn’t scared,” he said.

Brown spent much of his May 15 morning in a wheelchair, but almost as much time strapped into a climbing harness or onto a zip line. Stepping Stones Pediatric Therapy brought as many clients as seven therapists, four volunteers and an office worker could handle to Camp Thunderbird.

“Some of our children have never had this opportunity because they need a lot of one-on-one assistance,” said Jill Winter, owner of Stepping Stones.

Almost a dozen children age 4 to 13 climbed a challenge wall and took on a zipline. They had nature lessons and observed baby geese, among other wildlife. Therapists aimed for a fun day, but it wasn’t entirely a day off from their work. Physical therapy meant reaching for climbing handles or climbing stairs toward high ropes. Speech therapy meant describing animals and scenes not typical to the classroom.

“The idea here is to make friends, to cooperative play as well as incorporate therapy in a fun way,” Winter said.

Helping children with varying physical needs wasn’t new to staffers. Jill Moore, executive director for camp, said there’s a reason.

“Typically when we’re serving people with varying abilities, it’s within the context of a group,” she said. “Often a school group will come and maybe they have one or two children in a wheelchair. Over time we’ve adapted many of our of our programs for children of all abilities.”

Staff trains on how to bring camp programs to life for all children, in a safe way. Future plans for camp include more accessible paths and similar features. While a child or two with special needs is common, a larger group of children with special needs inquires about camp two or three times a year.

“It’s nice to be able to say yes,” Moore said.

Stepping Stones had varying ability levels even within its group. Winter brought children two years ago, and the repeat outing was a popular sell. It was an opportunity for children to make strides in their therapy, but also a memory.

“It’s so heartwarming,” Moore said. “It touches all of our hearts to be able to serve all kids and all people.”

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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