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Local camps celebrate 30 years

By Michelle Kealey

Staff Writer

WESTFIELD Kamp for Kids and Camp Togowauk are celebrating their 30th anniversary next week with an Opening Day Celebration during which the children who attend both camps will perform skits for the public.

In addition to celebrating 30 years, the camps are also celebrating their expansion and a future move to the former Camp Togowauk location at 742 Russell Road in Westfield.

The camps are currently located on the grounds of Western Massachusetts Hospital in Westfield.

The two camps are sponsored by Abilities Unlimited, a non-profit agency that provides education, social and employment services for physically and intellectually challenged individuals and their families.

David Scanlin, executive director of Abilities Unlimited, explained that Camp Togowauk had operated for about 40 to 45 years before it merged with Kamp for Kids in 2003.

Scanlin said that when Abilities Unlimited began its capital campaign, Mayor Richard Sullivan told him about Camp Togowauk and the fact that it was having financial difficulty.

"He thought it would be good to talk to one another and see how to benefit both groups," Scanlin said. "After conversations, we decided to merge."

When the camps first merged, they were still operated out of the different locations. This year, they are both being operated on the grounds of Western Massachusetts Hospital.

Scanlin explained that the camps offer an integrative program in which children with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities attend camp with non-disabled children.

"We mix the two together so that they learn from one another and focus on the abilities of everyone," Scanlin said.

He said that all of the children who attend the camp are involved in the same types of activities, which include swimming, arts and crafts, baseball and basketball.

He added that there is also a special challenge course that has been adapted for the children with disabilities.

Scanlin said that Kamp for Kids and Camp Togowauk offer typical camps experiences for children with disabilities.

Although the 30th anniversary Opening Day Celebration will take place on Friday, the children have been attending camp since last week.

Scanlin said that the children needed some time to prepare their skits and to work on their presentations.

State and local officials are expected to join the campers in their celebration and Scanlin said the public is invited to join as well.

"It is a wonderful experience to see kids with disabilities interact with other kids and have a lot of fun," Scanlin said. "[Children] love to entertain."

He said that four groups will make special performances during the celebration next week, which will take place from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. on July 15 on the grounds of Western Massachusetts Hospital on East Mountain Road in Westfield.


Camp Expansion

According to Scanlin, the 30th anniversary celebration and the expansion occurring at the same time is a coincidence.

He added that he wanted to celebrate 30 years where the camp is located.

"It's the last year we will be there," he said, adding that the organization is looking forward to the future and the new building.

Scanlin explained that the capital campaign began with a feasibility study about two years ago. About 1.5 years ago, the "quiet part" of the campaign began and shortly after that, Abilities Unlimited went more public about raising funds.

The original goal was to raise $1.25 million. However, Scanlin said that increased costs has raised the goal to $1.5 million.

The organization has raised $1.1 million so far.

Scanlin said that a consultant was hired at first to help with the fund-raising. He added that a number of foundations, businesses banks and individuals have donated funds for the expansion.

"The community really has been wonderful," he said.

He explained that there is currently a building on the property that formerly housed Camp Togowauk, which will be renovated.

"We are then going to add 2/3 [more] space, giving us 12,600 square feet," he said.

The camp will include the camp itself, which will be called Kamp for Kids at Camp Togowauk, as well as the family programs offered by Abilities Unlimited.

Scanlin said that there are plans for an after school program for individuals with disabilities and other "year round kinds of activities."

He also said that the Assistive Communication Technology Center will be moved to that site.

In addition to programs sponsored by Abilities Unlimited, Scanlin said that he is working collectively with the Westfield School Department to have one of its small programs on the property during the school year.

Scanlin said that the camp could not expand at its current location because it is located on state property.

Although about $400,000 still needs to be raised to fund the expansion project, Scanlin said construction will begin at the end of this month.

"Construction will start in July and we're looking at other ways of raising additional funding," he said.

Anyone interested in donating funds to the capital campaign can send a donation to the Abilities Unlimited Capital Campaign, 61 Union Street P.O. Box 219, Westfield, MA 01086.

For more information about the organization, visit