Pine Tree Camp is back in session after the pandemic

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT

ROME, Maine (WABI) - Pine tree camp has been providing a place for adults and children with disabilities to participate in recreational activities for over 7 decades.

They are back in session this year after the pandemic, and when the bell rings, campers know it is time for one of their favorite activities.

“Kayaking, that’s a huge activity at camp. I always think of it as a great equalizer because when you see our campers out on the lake, you cannot tell if they use a wheelchair on land or if they are mobile,” said Erin Rice, chief development officer.

They also enjoy swimming on the 285-acre property, that was originally founded for children unable to walk due to illness.

“It started out as a camp for children with polio, part of our programming and has expanded over the years to include people with physical disabilities as well as people with intellectual impairments,” explains camp director, Dawn Willard-Robinson.

Due to generous donors, Rice said they do not turn away families who are unable to meet up financially.

“That promise is so important to our families, that’s one thing they don’t need to worry about, they pay what they can afford, and we take care of the rest,” Rice said, “When they drive down the hill, they enter a place where they are not different, everybody is the same. they are one of the gang.”

Megan Bouchard calls it home. As a parent who goes to the camp with her son, she said it is their happy place.

“It is super accessible for wheelchairs and people of all ages, sizes, races, disabilities, it is all welcome.” Megan said.

“That is a great experience for them, I think over the past couple of years, especially, our campers have experienced some significant isolations.

Isolation due to COVID, and like many organizations, the camp director says they have had to re-evaluate what they offer and improve them where needed.

“We added accessible biking, improvements to our archery program, we’ve done a lot more boating and kayaking,” she said.

She also said they have stretched their seasons a little longer and are now offering winter programming.

Although they are back in session, Rice says they are still conscious about COVID because their campers are high risk populations.

“In normal times, we have about 90 campers per session, this year we have about half of that. we are thrilled to be back open and we cant wait to be back open as normal in the future,” Rice said.

Copyright 2022 WABI. All rights reserved.