HAMMOND | For the second consecutive year, Carpenters Union Local 599 donated significant funding to help send families to a special weekend camp for children with autism held at Stoney Run County Park in Leroy.
Union member Glen Downs, of Munster, recently presented an award to the union on behalf of MarysKids, a parent support group for families of children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Glen and Renee Downs’ son, Devin, has autism and was on hand to enthusiastically help present the award.
“Glen delivers a letter (each year) from the parent support group to union membership requesting their consideration of a financial donation to help cover the cost of the camping experience and activities,” said Mary Michael, of Highland, who founded MarysKids.
“For the second year in a row, the generosity of the local Carpenters Union has made it possible for any family with a child with autism, as well as extended family members and friends, to participate in a three-day, two-night outdoor primitive camping adventure right here in Lake County,” she said.
Often, parents are hesitant to take family camping trips because traditional campgrounds have camping sites in relatively close proximity to each other, Michael added. This can present difficulties because children with autism can be affected by sensory overloads, new environments or changes in routine.
“At Stoney Run, camping is limited to nonprofit groups,” she said. “MarysKids families require two group sites, so we are the only campers there for the entire weekend. Some families invite their neighbors to join in the experience.”
Friends and family members are encouraged to participate to provide “more of an inclusive atmosphere for the children,” Michael said. “Hay rides, llama visits, bonfires and the ever-popular s’mores make this all-American adventure a reality for children with autism.”
Another organization that helps underwrite the activities of MarysKids is M.A.A.P. Services, a nonprofit support and information/referral service for families with a member with Asperger's or autism that was founded by Susan Moreno, of Crown Point.