First-of-its-kind Camp for Children with Special Needs Led by Counselors with Special Needs

After scaling back due to the pandemic, Special Needs Network’s Joe Patton Academy Camp (JPAC) is back bigger and more inclusive than ever before. This first-of-its-kind camp for children with special needs now incorporates twelve camp counselors on the spectrum. This year’s camp will be bigger, better, and more inclusive, providing a unique opportunity for children with disabilities to engage in a transformative summer experience.

Camp JPAC serves as a safe, fun haven for close to 300 participating kids. The JPAC experience includes structured activities, spontaneous free play, organized sports, and social interaction. Campers are encouraged to develop and explore their imaginations as they engage in various fun and educational activities. Its innovative curriculum is customized for every age and experience level so children can pursue an existing passion or learn something new. 

As a result of a partnership between Special Needs Network and the County, this year’s Camp JPAC will take inclusivity to a whole new level. For the first time, the camp will be led by twelve exceptional camp counselors, all of whom are employed by the County and are on the autism spectrum themselves. This groundbreaking initiative ensures that children attending Camp JPAC will not only benefit from a camp designed specifically for their needs but will also be taught and supported by individuals who share their experiences and understand their challenges.

Founder of Special Needs Network, Areva Martin, expressed her enthusiasm about this year’s Camp JPAC, stating, “At Special Needs Network, we believe in the power of inclusion and the limitless potential of every child. We are incredibly proud to collaborate with the County and provide job opportunities for these remarkable young adults. Through Camp JPAC, we are not only creating a fun and supportive environment for our campers but also empowering and equipping our counselors for long-term employment success.”

The collaboration with the County not only enriches the camp experience but also aims to provide sustainable employment and training opportunities for individuals with special needs. The twelve camp counselors employed by the County will receive comprehensive training, equipping them with valuable skills for long-term employment prospects. This groundbreaking model of a camp for special needs, taught by those with special needs, has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach inclusion and empower individuals with disabilities in the workforce.

Additionally, Camp JPAC has secured a grant from the state focusing on providing job opportunities for young adults with disabilities. This grant aligns with the vision and mission of Camp JPAC, further supporting the goal of fostering independence and self-sufficiency among individuals with special needs.

Camp JPAC has also undergone new changes this year, including a new location that will accommodate the increased enrollment and provide enhanced facilities for campers’ enjoyment. The camp will offer a diverse range of activities, from arts and crafts to sports and recreation, all tailored to meet the unique needs and abilities of the campers.

As Camp JPAC embarks on this new chapter, it serves as a powerful reminder that inclusion knows no bounds. By embracing the talents and abilities of individuals with special needs, we unlock a world of untapped potential and foster a society that values diversity in all its forms. Let Camp JPAC be a catalyst for change, inspiring us to reexamine our perceptions and embrace the extraordinary contributions that individuals of all abilities can make when given the opportunity.