Quality of Life Spotlight: Camp Twin Lakes

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on June 01, 2022 # Quality of Life Grant Spotlight

girl at campFew childhood joys compare with the friendships, discoveries and experiences gained at summer camp. Guided by the motto, “where challenges become triumphs,” Camp Twin Lakes takes the transformative experiences of a traditional summer camp and makes them accessible to kids of all abilities. Each of the camp’s over 60 annual programs is specifically designed to host a special needs group of children or families with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges.

“For example, we have a designated camp for kids with spina bifida, childhood cancer, brittle bone disease, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injuries and other medical conditions,” says Anna Hutchins, the camp’s director of grants & outcomes measurement. Camps are also offered for military families and children in foster care or who have an incarcerated parent.

“Each disability has its own set of accessibility challenges. Our camps are exclusively inclusive. Everything is adaptive. If someone wants to ride a horse, we have adaptive saddles available with varying levels of support,” says Hutchins. “We will figure out how to do it. There is no ‘no’ at camp; it is always a ‘yes.’”

To help make these opportunities available, the camp relies on grants and volunteers as well as corporate and private support. In 2021, a $24,200 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant helped support program costs, onsite housing and adaptive equipment for 15 different paralysis-related camps. The funding helped minimize camp costs for 1,032 participants living with paralysis and paralysis-related conditions (as well as 2,064 families and caregivers).

camp twin lakes“We use a partnership model and work with 60 nonprofit organizations from across Georgia to help subsidize onsite medical support, program supplies, adaptive equipment and housing expenses, then we work with these partners to fundraise for the remaining costs,” says Hutchins. “This allows some of our campers to attend for free and the vast majority pay just a nominal fee.”

Starting in 1993 in Rutledge, Georgia, with 1,000 kids, the camp has expanded to more than 10,000 participants across two (and soon to be three) locations in the metro Atlanta area. Camps are offered every week during the summer and most weekends throughout the year. Most campers are from Georgia, but a few camps attract families from around the country. This is Camp Twin Lakes third and largest grant received from the Reeve Foundation.

“The Reeve Foundation support is so important to the health and wellbeing of so many families,” says Hutchins. “Having this support for campers living with paralysis and secondary conditions also frees up resources that can be put toward camps for other groups. There is a direct and indirect impact.”

For many kids, Camp Twin Lakes offers their first opportunity to experience activities like horseback riding, ziplining, high ropes or climbing a rock wall by using an adaptive harness and pully system. A secure transfer system and stabilized boats enable canoeing and kayaking, and a mounted bow holder enables participation in archery.

“At home, many kids may be the only person they know with their disability, but at camp, they interact with 50, 70 or 150 kids who face the same diagnosis or life challenge,” says Hutchins. “At camp, they build community and sense of belonging and improve their wellness through physical activity, exposure to nature and free play.”

camp twin lakes liftPart of the camp’s goal is to help campers increase their confidence and self-acceptance through problem-solving and skill-building activities. Through a post-camp survey, participants and their families reported that 88% of campers grew in their wellness, 88% grew in their sense of belonging to a community, 96% grew in their self-acceptance and 91% grew in their self-efficacy (confidence in their skills and abilities).

“We can help kids figure out how to do anything, from brushing their teeth to improving their social skills,” says Hutchins. “We help them set goals and then move toward achieving them.”

During the pandemic, Camp Twin Lakes provided campers and their families with unique opportunities to bond outside of the home, connect with and recharge in nature and have a time of true respite.

“The Reeve Foundation has made that happen this year for so many people. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity, and we feel the impact and importance of that gift,” says Hutchins. “We hope more people learn about our camp. Our six-year goal is to host 13,500 campers and families a year. If we can help more people in a deeper way, we are grateful for that opportunity.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.