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

Man shot dead after argument at bar south of Everett

Police say an employee of the bar shot and killed the man, who had opened fire in the parking lot.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

They check tickets, help riders, sometimes get screamed at

13 sheriff’s deputies (so far) patrol Community Transit’s fleet of nearly 300 buses.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Alaska Airlines to announce Paine Field destinations Tuesday

The Snohomish County airport’s passenger terminal is slated to see flights this fall.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Community Health Center opening its seventh clinic

The nonprofit is dedicated to providing care for low-income and uninsured patients.

Gun control debate flares anew in Olympia

A two-hour hearing covered a package of gun-related legislation.

Most Read