The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
8 E 41st Street, 8th Floor
New York New York 10017
[email protected] 

Avery Shines at Camp
Avery Shines at Camp
Avery Shines at Camp
Avery Shines at Camp

As Avery's parents, we wrestle with decisions regarding the right setting for her to learn, develop and experience life. There is fine line we walk between inclusion and comfort. A few years ago, on the recommendation of a family member who graciously volunteers at Camp PARC (People Always Responding with Compassion) in Pennsylvania, we gave a sleepaway camp a try. Camp PARC provides a great mini-camp with fun activities and social events for people with developmental disabilities. 

This new frontier of Avery sleeping away from home rattled all of us. In her first year, camp counselors reported that she mostly kept to herself and only participated in a few activities. The group activities were held in a large building that Avery would not enter. Avery has sensory issues that involve crowds and loud noises. Try as they might, the counselors could not coerce Avery into staying for the presentations. When asked about camp, Avery seemed indifferent about the experience. 

After a second year with similar results we started to think that maybe this wasn’t the best fit for Avery. But this year something triggered a spark. It seems like Avery crossed that comfort zone and decided that camp PARC was for her. This year, when confronted with the Activity Hall, Avery stepped inside as if it were her second home. She strode confidently to the front row dancing to the music. When volunteers were asked to come on stage to be a part of the show, Avery raised her hand and jumped on stage. She participated in just about every activity offered at the camp. 

That same day, a petting zoo brought animals to the camp, which Avery typically avoids; well I think this photo tells the story better than I can. Avery surprises us again and again when we least expect it. We must learn to never underestimate her ability to adapt and ultimately thrive under ever-changing conditions. We must also stop underestimating the kindness, compassion and patience of others who have begun to see what I have seen: there are fireworks inside of our kids and we will never know what ignites them, and makes them shine.

Vote for your favorite story! Each month, the two stories with the most votes will be featured in the NDSS E-Newsletter.*


Your email address will be used for voter tracking only, and will not be used for future NDSS emails.
Click here to become a fan on Facebook.
Click here to follow us on Twitter.

*Votes will be reset at the end of each month.

Full Name
Comments (1,000 character limit)

Colleen Stewart-Tretter, United States, PA
07/31/2012 17:57:05
As a first-time Camp Nurse, I saw first-hand, the commitment of Avery's Junior Counselor and Peer Buddy, to encourage the best week of camp, bar none! All the Staff gives the best of what they have to offer...their blood, sweat, and tears, usually of joy! May God Bless Camp PARC always!

Cheryl Bittner, United States, PA
07/31/2012 17:30:00
I have volunteered at Camp PARC for 6 years. This was my second year at mini-camp and I too saw the spark light in Avery. It was truly amazing and rewarding to see her participate in most of the activities and enjoy her time with the fellow campers and counselors in the cabin. Avery truly shined this year and will continue to do so in the years to come at camp.

Judy Risch, United States, OR
07/30/2012 00:16:17
I experienced this story first-hand. As a director of Camp PARC, it was a special moment that I will always treasure. On the first day of mini-camp 2012 and for the very first time, Avery made her way to the stage in our recreation hall to share in song and dance. She was glowing with pride...enjoying every minute of her debut! By late afternoon, we were elated, as her participation in every camping activity that day had overwhelmingly increased from the prior years she attended. When the petting zoo arrived, there wasn't a "dry eye"within the staff when Avery climbed onto the pony to ride...smiling and enjoying every minute of her experience! A day we will never forget!

Christine Troxell, United States, PA
07/29/2012 21:18:50
Avery is a special gift to our family and she never ceases to amaze us. All the Troxell's are so proud of her this year and so is the Camp PARC family that she is apart of. Our theme this year was Country Roots and Wings: Faith, Family and Friends. Her story fits this perfectly. Her first years were giving her camp roots. What we thought was indifference was truly her just developing her comfort level and acceptance. This year her wings soared. Through her Faith, her Family and her Camp PARC Friends she had a fabulous week and the entire staff is happy and proud. We love her and thank Avery and her family for allowing us to have this special camper at Camp PARC.

Peter McMillen, United States, PA
07/27/2012 09:19:30
Great story of progress and a fine example of what can happen if you don't quit and keep on working towards your goals. You will be rewarded!

Lucas Staib, United States, IL
07/26/2012 20:07:58
So, so proud of my cousin Avery and this story! FIREWORKS INSIDE!!

Lisa Huston, United States, IL
07/26/2012 12:50:46
The phrase, "the sky's the limit" for our children comes to mind when reading this story. I think the lesson for us to always try new things, and if at first thyr don't succeed, try try again. Thank you for sharing Avery's successes with us.

  • Buddy Walk
  • NDSS Yourway
  • NDSS DS-Ambassadors