All Abilities Welcome

Channel 3 Kids Camp welcomes children of all abilities.

Campers of all abilities ride the zip line at the Channel 3 Kids Camp. Photo credit: Channel 3 Kids Camp.

When the Channel 3 Kids Camp opened its doors to kids with special needs two years ago, counselors and administrators thought they might see some hesitation from returning campers. They couldn't have been more wrong.

Campers in the Teen Leadership Program eagerly signed up to be buddies and help kids with special needs climb the ropes course, pull back a compound bow, edit a music video and participate in any number of the other activities.

"When they accomplish something together, it's amazing to see," says Joan L. Gurski, the foundation and government relations manager for the camp.

The camp dates back to 1910 when the Harrison B. Freeman family opened their woodsy retreat known as Almada Lodge to city children. Ever since generations of kids whose parents could afford little beyond the basics have had a summer camp opportunity that would otherwise be out of reach.

For much of the 20th century, the camp was named the Times Farm Camp after the Hartford Times, which took over running the camp in 1920. Channel 3 stepped in to become the media sponsor after the Times shuttered in 1976. The camp has expanded its facilities and programs with funding raised from Channel 3's annual telethon and by attracting support from foundations, donors, and state funding.

The 150-acre campground along the Skungamaug River features cabins, a swimming pool and pool house a recreation hall, a ball field, an archery range, a ropes course, and an ever-popular zip line. A newly completed accessible playground is the social gathering spot where campers get to know each other.

"It's the first thing the kids run to when they get off the buses," says Gurski.

The camp offers a range of activities including martial arts, archery, arts and crafts, ball sports, computer programming, video production, orienteering, and nature exploration. One year, a counselor brought the expertise to teach circus arts.

"We make the most of what our staff can offer," says Gurski.

A multi-year grant awarded in 2014 by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has provided general operating support during the camp's transition to becoming inclusive of kids of all abilities. The camp invested in making the grounds ADA compliant and staff went through three years of training with the National Inclusion Project. It built an accessible dorm-style cabin and has a registered nurse on staff. Between 15-20 percent of the camper population has special needs.

Funding support allows the camp to offer overnight sessions for as low as $100 a week for children in households that receive free or reduced lunch or are on other forms of public assistance. The camp serves children referred from the Dept. of Children and Families and the Dept. of Developmental Services. Day camp sessions run for ten weeks through the summer, and year-round programs include a daycare and Nature's Classroom, an outdoor overnight field trip program for schools. It also runs a reunification weekend for siblings separated in foster care.

To learn more about Channel 3 Kids Camp and support its mission, visit its profile on®.

Did you Know?

One-quarter of the kids at the Channel 3 Kids Camp summer camp are from Greater New Haven, and the camp serves more than 3000 kids in total throughout the year, according to Gurski.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.