Inclusivity through Lakewood’s Camp Paha

Camp caters to youth and young adults with disabilities

Joseph Rios
jrios@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/31/19

For some residents throughout the Denver metro area, Lakewood’s Camp Paha, a summer camp program for youth and young adults with disabilities, is their last option. They may have been rejected at …

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Inclusivity through Lakewood’s Camp Paha

Camp caters to youth and young adults with disabilities

Posted

For some residents throughout the Denver metro area, Lakewood’s Camp Paha, a summer camp program for youth and young adults with disabilities, is their last option. They may have been rejected at other camps for whatever reason, but Camp Paha never says no to anyone.

“We’ll do everything we can to make accommodations and adaptations to our activities to make sure these campers can have that same summer camp experience as their other peers,” said Billy Cooper, the recreation coordinator for youth and therapeutic recreation programs for the city of Lakewood.

Camp Paha has been offered to youth and young adults in the Denver metro area since the summer of 1980. It’s licensed by the state of Colorado as a childcare program, and it offers numerous opportunities for camp attendees, like hiking, arts and crafts, field trips, music, sports, games, swimming and more. Some of the field trips campers got to go on last year included a Colorado Rockies game, horseback riding and zip lining.

Each year, Camp Paha serves a little under 100 participants with the goal of providing opportunities for fellowship, fun, awareness about self, others and the environment and a goal of emphasizing citizenship and being a member of a group through the program, according to the city.

The program serves a demographic whose summer activity options are limited like for eight-year-old Lexi Peterson. Her father, Eric Peterson, says she has autism, and about once a week, she talks about how fun Camp Paha was and how she can’t wait to go back next summer.

“There’s a lot of stuff for kids that are considered to be normal. There are very few things for kids that have special needs,” said Eric. “(Camp Paha) does something for the community, and they do it in an amazing way and in a loving way.”

At a Dec. 2 Lakewood City Council meeting, Friends of Paha, a nonprofit board that raises funds and awareness for the city’s summer programs for people with disabilities, presented a $43,769 check to support the Paha camps. Although the numbers on the check are high, changes to Medicaid funding will make it difficult for some families to be able to participate in Camp Paha. Starting Jan 1. respite dollars billed through Medicaid must be done through a program approved service agency and verified using electronic visit verification. Typically, Camp Paha has been able to bill as a general provider for respite services, but with the changes, that won’t be a possibility this upcoming summer. The camp costs a bit over $700 for Lakewood residents and $930 for non-Lakewood residents, and almost half of the families involved in the program bill Camp Paha as a general provider for respite services.

To help ease the financial burden for those families, you can make a donation to Friends of Paha at friendsofpaha.org.

“If you’re in the disability realm, a lot of people are aware of (Camp Paha). There aren’t many camps like Paha that support the campers the way we do,” said Missy Granish, a camp director for Camp Paha.

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