Monday, June 29, 2009

Kids with disabilities are unhappy campers due to closure of MDA camps because of fears of swine flu

From The Boston Herald:

Every summer for the past 11 years, Nick Larkin has looked forward to going to camp - one where he isn’t the only kid in a wheelchair.

“It’s just kind of a relief to feel normal because all the kids there have the same disease,” said Larkin, a 17-year-old Danvers High School senior who spends one week every summer swimming, horseback riding and kayaking with dozens of other youngsters who have muscular dystrophy.

But June 26, a Muscular Dystrophy Association representative called their families to say next month’s camp had been canceled because 17 cases of swine flu had been detected at other association-funded camps - in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Utah.

“It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make,” said MDA spokeswoman Roxan Olivas of the decision to cancel the camp, which had been scheduled for July 5-10. “We understand what camp means to these kids. It ranks right up there with Christmas. But one child is too many to lose.”

Parents, however, had already obtained their pediatricians’ OK for their children to attend the camp and believed that any potential risks were outweighed by the benefits.

“He gets to see friends he’s made from past summers, and for that one week, my 14-year-old daughter gets to be the focus of all my attention,” said Larkin’s mother, Lauren Ferrari.

Nearby, in the town of Beverly, Natalie Gaudenzi was having similar thoughts. She had seen her 14-year-old son, Max (pictured), flourish at camp in summers past, while she and her husband got a brief respite as his caregivers. So she had an idea: What if they could raise the nearly $24,000 it would cost to send 35 youngsters to camp?

Gaudenzi decided to try, but time was of the essence. So she set up a Web page and hoped word would spread in time.

Now there is reason to hope: By last night, the page had $7,520 in donations.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “There are people with big hearts out there.”