Joey’s House offers free camp for those with developmental disabilities

Let’s go! That’s the theme for the upcoming Camp Champion.

This program, for campers with developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, autism, and Angelman Syndrome, is offered by Joey’s House, a not-for-profit organization providing therapeutic programming for adolescents and adults with special needs.

Camp Champion, as well as the organization’s House Parties, are for individuals ages 12 and older. Those ages 12-17 participate in rotations including, but not limited to, sensory exploration, following recipes, crafts, scrapbooking, relay races, read-alouds and writing reflections, music therapy, and other activities that focus on building communication and motor skills.

Those 18 and older participate in the adult programming, which follows some of the same rotations as the younger group, but also has a rotation focused on completing jobs in the building and a daily community outing.

“We hope that once campers join our programming, they will remain with us as we grow. As such, we try to live true to our value of prioritizing skill development by creating slightly different options for the adult group,” said Britelle Smith of Lombard, a special-education teacher and co-founder of Joey’s House, in an email.

The nonprofit offers its camp, House Parties and other programs for free, thanks to generous donations from friends, families and the community.

The goal is to allow these kids and adults to take part in traditional get-togethers they may not otherwise get to do.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

“The name Joey’s House was inspired by the son of one of the founders, who — like so many of our other campers — has made a positive impact on those around him and motivates us all to do the same,” Smith said in an email.

“Although we do not have a literal house at this time, our hope is that wherever we hold our events, we have open doors to gather and grow with friends, old and new.”

Smith discusses Joey’s House and its upcoming Camp Champion. Campers and volunteers who would like to participate can visit the website joeyshouseinc.org.



Director Britelle Smith, left, and camper Alyssa were excited that Camp Champion opened its doors in 2020 with plenty of precautions in place.


Director Britelle Smith, left, and camper Alyssa were excited that Camp Champion opened its doors in 2020 with plenty of precautions in place.
– Photo courtesy of Joey’s House

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Q: What is Joey’s House? Give a brief overview of what the organization does and who you serve.

A: Joey’s House is a not-for-profit organization providing therapeutic programming for adolescents and adults with special needs.

Many of our participants benefit from 1:1 coaching and may not be able to access other programming within the community without these individualized supports.

It was founded in 2020 by a special needs mother, a special-education teacher and a developmental therapist after seeing a need for quality programming as individuals with special needs grew older.

Our mission is to provide a safe, structured and supportive environment. Through individualized supports and 1:1 coaches, participants are provided appropriate experiences that facilitate growth of skills, while providing trusted care for families.

Q: Where do the majority of your donations come from?

A: Joey’s House is funded through donations from families of participants as well as the surrounding community. Joey’s House also partners with Parkview Community Church and Clare Woods Academy.

We also recently held our first Trivia Night Fundraiser to fund Camp Champion 2022, gaining the support of many local businesses and friends in the community. This support enables Joey’s House to currently provide programming free of charge.

Q: How many people per year do you serve?

A: Joey’s House has worked with more than 20 families of participants and continues to grow.

Q: What are some of your programs?

A: Joey’s House offers quality programming throughout the year. We host House Parties several times during the school year. These half-day events provide trusted care for families, as well as fun and structured opportunities to participants.

Each House Party and camp week has a theme that activities center around. Past themes have included “Spring into Spring,” “Color Explosion,” and “Winter Wonderland.”

House Parties and the camp are run with the same structure — House Parties are just a one-day camp on a weekend during the school year, instead of a weeklong day camp. House Parties are approximately one Saturday a month from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the academic year.

Joey’s House also hosts “Friends and Family Socials,” such as bonfires, pool parties and scavenger hunts, for participants’ families, volunteers’ families, and community members interested in Joey’s House.

During the last week of July, Joey’s House runs Camp Champion.

All of the Joey’s House programs are free for campers and their families at this time. It is a primary goal of Joey’s House to remain accessible to all families. This is made possible by our annual trivia fundraiser, as well as one-time donations from community members.

Additionally, the organization is run entirely by volunteers.



Adult camper Cheryl completes her morning job working in the volunteer child care room. Older campers have job rotations to learn life skills during Camp Champion.


Adult camper Cheryl completes her morning job working in the volunteer child care room. Older campers have job rotations to learn life skills during Camp Champion.
– Photo courtesy of Joey’s House

Q: Tell us about Camp Champion.

A: Camp Champion is a day camp designed for individuals who, due to their high support needs, might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend a day camp. This camp is led by special educators, therapists and other experienced professionals.

Camp Champion 2022 takes place July 25-29 at Clare Woods Academy in Wheaton. Camper hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and volunteer hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

This year’s overarching theme is “LET’S GO!” — with each day being a different sub-focus (for example: Let’s Go Explore, Let’s Go On a Ride, Let’s Go On Vacation, Let’s Go to a Concert, Let’s Go, Team!).

Throughout the week, participants engage in rotations that incorporate fine motor, gross motor, communication, sports and other therapeutic activities.

In 2021, Joey’s House was able to grow to add a separate program for adults ranging in age from 18-54 within Camp Champion. Programming for this group highlights community engagement, vocational opportunities within the camp, as well as therapeutic rotations throughout the day.

Anyone interested in volunteering or attending can email [email protected] and look at our website for pictures/videos of previous years.

Q: How can people participate?

A: Our programming relies on our dedicated volunteers and donors from within the community. If there are businesses able to underwrite costs associated with camp or special events, email [email protected]

Individuals wishing to donate can visit joeyshouseinc.org/donate.

In addition to financial donations, Joey’s House welcomes volunteers with experience in special education. Other volunteer opportunities include child care (for our volunteers’ children) and nursing.

Families interested in learning more about programming can visit our website or email Joey’s House directly at [email protected]

Q: How can readers help Joey’s House?

A: Readers can keep up to date with Joey’s House through Instagram/Facebook @joeyshouseinc and our website, joeyshouseinc.org.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: Joey’s House is blessed to have volunteers and families with the biggest hearts!