There’s something in the air at Camp Pontiac in Copake, New York. Many who are located in the city would just call it fresh air, but to our enCourage families it’s so much more than that – it’s a sense of freedom and a true escape from the stress and anxiety of their everyday lives.

This Labor Day weekend, over 200 enCourage kids and family members joined us at Camp Pontiac to end the summer with a weekend of family fun!

Summertime camping is an honored family tradition for many, but unfortunately, most of our enCourage families do not have the luxury of a weekend vacation worry-free. Whether it is medical or financial restrictions or the fact that most camp areas are not wheelchair friendly, it is not possible for most of our families to go on these types of trips alone. That’s why enCourage Kids’ annual weekend at Camp Pontiac is a favorite among our families – both newcomers and camp-veterans.

Camp is truly a special event. Moms, dads, enCourage kids and siblings who constantly run from school, to work, to doctor’s appointments and hospital visits finally get a weekend to spend together whilst developing their camping etiquette as a family. The only running around this weekend is for sports like basketball and kickball.

While the kids played soccer, enCourage moms would sit on the sidelines and chat together, catching up since the last Escape. They talk about hospital visits, medications, their other children, and home life with ease. They never feel like an outcast or as though someone doesn’t “get it.”

enCourage mom Tiffany put it simply, “When we’re here, it’s a reminder that we aren’t the only ones going through hard times. There’s an understanding here.”

You can see and feel the difference that camp brings to everyone’s demeanor. It’s incredible how a place only a few hours from home can turn stress, fear, and anxiety into laughter, smiles, and fun. A restraint is lifted by being here. There’s no worrying about the next appointment or the next treatment. There’s no planning – everything is taken care of (other than deciding how many smores to eat).

Saturday was a non-stop day of fun! Kids and parents could pick from activities including basketball with Bernie, crafts with Angelae, kickball with Allison and Casey, or henna tattoos with Salma and Hibba. After lunch, many kids enjoyed the pool, soccer, tennis, trivia, and bingo. As enCourage dad Hal put it, “There’s something for everyone at camp,” including moms, dads, enCourage kids, and their siblings.

The evening brought a delicious BBQ followed by an all-time favorite camp game, Minute 2 Win-It. enCourage kids and siblings enjoyed each game with a new intensity – and when it was time for the wheelchair race, the crowd went wild.

The smiles continued at the campfire and ice cream parlor, which made the weekend that much sweeter.

And while there are so many memorable camp moments, one of the best by far was the thirty minutes of unplanned fun outside of the office before our traditional group photo. A small window of unscheduled spontaneity in an otherwise packed weekend. There was sidewalk chalk, a football being thrown overhead, and kids swinging in the arms of volunteers.

One of our older enCourage Kids, Brianna, who has lived with spina bifida her entire 18 years, drove the golf cart with the help of our enCourage Kids staff. A truly remarkable way to show how enCourage Kids Foundation is a family through and through, supporting each other in every way.

The look of happiness that was prominent on every child, parent, staff, and volunteer’s faces is one that you don’t forget. It’s a moment that sticks with you long after the drive back to the city.

This amazing event would not be possible without the support and generosity of the Etra Family. Ricky and Kenny Etra, co-owners and directors at Camp Pontiac, invite us back every year so that our families can build new relationships and bond with old friends. The Camp Pontiac staff works tirelessly throughout the weekend to ensure each camper has the best experience possible. We can’t thank the Etra family and the Camp Pontiac staff enough for this beloved weekend.

Thank you to our outstanding staff and volunteers for your tireless work leading up to and throughout the entire event. Without the help of our amazing donors, Log-On and the Mendelow family, this weekend simply would not be possible.

enCourage mom Janette said it best, “We are so blessed and grateful to be part of such an amazing organization that brings comfort, smiles, joy and an escape from the challenges in all enCourage kids families’ lives. These special events are memories and moments that are special and that are offered to all of us with so much love and great effort given to get them coordinated. Thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts.”

And lastly, a huge thank you to our enCourage families for making this the best camp weekend yet! We can’t wait to see you next year for another weekend of family fun!

View more photos of the weekend fun on our Facebook!