Warm Beach camp provides activity for disabled adults

WARM BEACH — Leah Merklinghaus didn’t hesitate to ask the question seven years ago: Could Warm Beach Camp offer a place for adults with disabilities to socialize and be active?

Merklinghaus’ son, Max, is autistic. People with special needs have all kinds of opportunities to interact in public school, but after they graduate, there were few places for them to go, she said.

So Merklinghaus worked with Ed McDowell, Warm Beach executive director, and Laurie Fertello, disabilities ministry director, to create a summer camp.

“I was just so impressed with Warm Beach’s desire to make it happen,” Merklinghaus said. “When you have a special needs child, you hear ‘no’ so often. With Warm Beach it was, ‘Hey, let’s make this happen.’”

The non-denominational Christian camp known for its winter Christmas lights displays began offering the Special Friends Day Camp that summer for 22 participants.

This summer, it’s offering four week-long camps to serve adults with mental and physical disabilities in Snohomish County.

“We’ve just seen a real strong growth in the program,” Fertello said. “It has been such a blessing for people with disabilities and their families. It gives them a bit of respite.

“We hear so often that a lot of time there’s no break from the challenges of caring for someone with special needs. This gives them a chance to relax and step away.”

The program, for people age 15 and older, encourages campers to participate in swimming, crafts, mini-golf, field games, music, horse rides and more. The camps also offer chapel time, singing of hymns and Bible study.

“It’s not a Bible program but that is a component of our program,” Fertello said.

Camps are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. July 9-12, July 16-19, July 23-26, and Aug. 6-9. Lunch and snacks are provided. The camps cost $198 a week, but scholarships are available for low-income families.

To host these camps, Warm Beach works with Village Community Services, Eagle Wings Ministries, Smokey Point Community Church, staff members from Children’s Hospital, and educators from the Stanwood School District.

One-on-one “buddies” are provided for each camper on the nearly 300 acres at Warm Beach’s facility. Many of these assistants are volunteers who come for the week. More volunteers are needed. Overnight accommodations are offered.

Merklinghaus, who lived in Stanwood but has since moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, will miss the camp for the first time this year. But Max, now 26, still attends and also volunteers on the mini-golf course.

She praised the staff at Warm Beach.

“They’ve just embraced him and loved on him,” Merklinghaus said.

Day camp

To register for the Special Friends Day Camp, apply to be a volunteer, or for more information, call Warm Beach Camp at 800-228-6724; or got to www.specialfriends.warmbeach.com.

More in Local News

Families begin relocating from public housing complex

Baker Heights is in need of repairs deemed to costly to make, and will be demolished and replaced.

Trail work by juvenile offenders builds resumes, confidence

Kayak Point trails were built out this year by groups from Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Small fire breaks out at haunted house in Everett

Plastic that was supposed to be noncombustable was sitting next to a hot lightbulb.

Rules of the road for ‘extra-fast pedestrians’ — skateboarders

State traffic law defines them as pedestrians, and yet they are often in the middle of the street.

Distress beacon leads rescuers to Pacific Crest Trail hikers

Two men in their 20s had encountered snow and waited two nights for a helicopter rescue.

City of Everett to give $400K to a nonprofit housing project

The city expects to enter a contract with HopeWorks, an affiliate of Housing Hope.

Everett mayoral campaign is one of the priciest ever

Many campaign donors are giving to both Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.

Volunteers clean up homeless camp infested with garbage

The organization’s founder used to live and do drugs in the same woods.

The way he walked led to police to Everett murder suspect

Then, witnesses said they had heard the man and an alleged accomplice talking about a robbery.

Most Read