Camp High Hopes of Sioux City offers a range of activities for people with disabilities | Local News

Since its founding in 2004, Camp High Hopes of Sioux City has strived to provide a multitude of recreational opportunities for children and adults with diagnosed disabilities.

If campers want to shoot with a bow and arrow, they have the option to do so. Maybe they want to go fishing on a lake? Totally doable. Say someone is interested in climbing a tree for the first time? The option exists.

But it’s not enough to just provide the options. High Hopes staff also strive to ensure that each activity is as accessible as possible for campers.

Camp High Hopes program director Ashley Ayala calls the changes to routine camp activities “adaptations” and says they really help build campers’ confidence.

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“We have the ability to take someone who maybe doesn’t have the ability to climb and we put them in a full harness and then we’re able to elevate them to the point where they can still look out and see how high they are,” Ayala said. “A lot of our campers miss those opportunities because all their lives they assume they just can’t.






Josiah Hombs, left, and Spencer Neimann laugh as staff member Eric Rasmussen pulls a rope to bring water down on them.


Owen Ziliak


It’s opportunities like this that have kept campers like 17-year-old Pehdyn Lawrey coming back again and again. In terms of activities, two of his favorite activities are fishing and archery.

“I’ve had bullshit looks almost every summer. I had one the first week this summer,” Lawrey said.

If for some reason a camper is unable to use a regular bow on the archery range, Ayala said Camp High Hopes has an “adaptive bow” that allows the user to press a button to release an arrow.

“One of our directors from a few years ago was actually the one (who) created it,” she said.

For other adaptations, Ayala said Camp High Hopes staff members will work with people in the community who know a thing or two about making something adaptable. “If we need to create additional adaptation, we can do it through trial and error,” she said.

As for the waterfront, Ayala said there were rollers to get canoes in and out of the fully stocked pond if campers couldn’t do it themselves.

“They’re super excited, they even have the ability to fish and we have two lifeguards on staff if there’s ever a moment of crisis,” Ayala said.







High Hopes Camp

Caroline Farrar walks around with a bucket on her head as part of an exercise.


Town of Owen Ziliak Sioux Newspaper


Staying campers will start their day in one of two cabins, according to Ayala, which can hold 40. Days start at 7 a.m. and breakfast is served at 8 a.m. If needed, there are hospital beds and bed rails as well as shower chairs on site. .

They have full access to everything here,” Ayala said.

After breakfast comes the day’s events: maybe archery for an hour, followed by arts and crafts for another hour. In the evening outdoor program there are lessons on building fires and creating knots. The so-called “cabin talks” then help close the night.

On particularly hot days, Ayala said staff will keep campers busy with indoor activities or less physically strenuous events such as tie-dyeing and creative plays.

The latter may involve participants doing dance moves around a circle while music plays. There will also be pieces of paper scattered about with instructions for different maneuvers to try. For a session on Wednesday, June 29, Lawrey said it was the best thing she had to do for the day.

I love music, so I just sang to it,” Lawrey said.

Although she’s only been in the role since February and is still getting to know the area, Ayala said she’d like to add other activities, including adaptive ax throwing (maybe again this summer).

I intend to turn this program into something awesome, adventurous and enjoyable for everyone,” Ayala said.







High Hopes Camp

Chancellor Erickson lays down on a Slip N’ Slide during one of the activities.


Town of Owen Ziliak Sioux Newspaper


Thanks to counselors like Ayala, Lawrey, who also attended a muscular dystrophy camp, developed such an affinity for High Hopes that she said she would like to become a counselor one day too.

I want to be a senior advisor or just a general advisor. I like working with good kids,” Lawrey said.

This kind of testimonials is a real highlight of Ayala’s work. That and witnessing the fun of the campers.

A young man caught a 16 inch bass on our lake. We had a lot of archery hits,” Ayala said. “You just have to see their smiles on their faces when they are able to experience something like that.”

Jared McNett is an online editor and reporter for the Sioux City Journal. You can reach him at 712-293-4234 and follow him on Twitter @TwoHeadedBoy98.

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