Civitans assist Camp Rising Sun brighten children’s summers

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By Carol A. Clark

The Civitans helped develop Camp Rising Sun in 2006 to provide summer camp experiences for children with autism who can’t participate in mainstream camps designed for neuro-typical children.

Assistant Director Sharon Cruse of Camp Rising Sun gave a presentation at the Mesa Public Library Feb. 24, hosted by the Civitans.

“We really want to thank the Civitans for hosting this event and for their support and assistance,” Cruse said. “The mission of the camp is to provide a specialized summer camp experience for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), provide an opportunity for students and professionals to gain experience working with those diagnosed with ASD and provide respite for parents and caregivers of individuals with ASD.”

The camp is located at Camp Oro Quay property in the mountains east of Albuquerque. It is a five-day, four-night camp for children who need continued, often 24-hour support, Cruse said.

“My son, Isaac, has attended this camp twice and I can’t say enough about how great it is,” said Cathy Majerus of Los Alamos.

“I never thought he could participate in something like this as his autism is severe and he needs one-on-one attention to meet his daily living needs. He is non-verbal, doesn’t understand dangerous situations and is a ‘runner’. He loves cars and traffic, so as you can imagine, leaving him at a camp for four days is not something that comes easy for our family.”

Majerus described the main counselor who was matched with Isaac his first summer as “phenomenal.”

She was a speech pathologist from Albuquerque who studied up on Isaac from information the camp asks the family to submit in advance.

“She also contacted me before we took him,” Majerus said. “She came prepared with everything he needed to be successful including picture/word boards, motivational objects and other educational tools. She slept right next to him and partnered with the other counselors to make his camp experience fantastic.”

The Majerus family’s experience the following summer was just as great, she said.

“Isaac’s counselors were graduate students from UNM and they were also phenomenal,” Majerus said. “He was so happy and loved being there. He tried things he’s never been able to try – like horseback riding.”

Majerus hopes Camp Rising Sun receives the recognition they so deserve, saying they give so much to children and families and they do it all with a very small budget - charging as low a fee as possible to participants.

Currently the camp serves children between 8-13 years of age. The goal in the future is to expand to include older adolescent individuals.

The organization is currently working with the Center for Developmental Disabilities at UNM to work toward this goal, Cruse said.

Mentors, teachers, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses, parents and many more professionals and students make up the camp staff, she said, and form a support team that is loving, caring and knowledgeable.

“Our counselors consist of mentors who are currently working in career fields to help people with Autism and young people who are interested in entering these same career fields,” Cruse said. “These young people have all become more inspired after serving at the camp.”

Among audience members at Cruse’s presentation were Family Specialist Manuel Martinez of the Española Autism Programs and local parents of children on the autism spectrum.

Camp Rising Sun is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with accreditation by the American Camping Association

Anyone wishing to help Camp Rising Sun can send donations to, The Center for Development and Disability, 2300 Menaul NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107.

To learn more, access www.camprisingsunnm.org and www.oroquay.org.