For special needs children, life can be full of obstacles and challenges—but it can also be full of caring individuals dedicated to help meet those challenges. Indeed, the power of community is invaluable in its contributions to the lives of special needs children, and organizations such as Imua Family Services recognize this. The group recently wrapped up its 37th annual Camp Imua, a week long summer camp that ran from June 8-14 this year and brought together volunteers and companies from across the island to create a rich and positive environment for 57 special needs keiki campers.
“When you’re a ‘special needs child’ school is a lonely and difficult place to be,” said one mother of a Camp Imua keiki. “At school she is ‘different, scary and ostracized’ for who she is and because she is not like other children there. BUT at Camp Imua she is a star, she is popular, she is loved and cared for. The other kids don’t see their differences or their special needs. She gets to do and experience things that ‘normal kids’ get to do on a regular basis and everything there is centered on her own special abilities… Often it’s the only time of the year where she gets to feel this way on a day to day basis. She is always sad when Camp Imua is over and looks forward to the next camp all year round.”
What’s more, the activities offered at Camp Imua due to the generosity of Maui’s community are enough to make anyone look back at their childhood summer camp with a little disdain. This year the camp was able to offer “helicopter rides, zip lines at Pi‘iholo, daily horseback riding, swimming, surf therapy at Olowalu with cardboard boat races, kayaking, arts & crafts and of course campfire sing along,” stated a June 24 news release.
Yet, all good things must come to an end. “The entire week closed with a special Luau when parents and caregivers joined together for one final feast,” stated Imua Family Services. “It was an emotional night of incredible joy, exhaustion and ‘a hui hou’ until we meet again. This year staff of Old Lahaina Luau came to give the kids Makahiki experience teaching, poi ponding, Hawaiian games, and tapa making. And of course each year our honorable Mayor Alan Arakawa cooks Shoyu Chicken for the campers.”
Arakawa’s cooking feats included, Camp Imua was the product of significant volunteer and organizational contributions. Each special needs child was teamed up with two or three Camper Caregivers who were selected and trained to provide “round the clock care, support, and attention to each camper.” In addition to volunteer caregivers, volunteer nurses, lifeguards, cooks, crafters and cleaning crews donated their time for a total of over 200 volunteers who helped make the week special for the keiki.
Imua Family Services provides comprehensive early childhood development services to children and their families with the support and resources needed to achieve their full potential in life. Each year, more than 2,500 community members on Maui and Lanai receive support from Imua Family Services through the Infant & Child Development Program, Early Childhood Development Program, Newborn Hearing Screening, and Camp Imua.
Visit Imua Family Services online at Imuafamilyservices.org.