“It was refreshing.”

“It felt like we finally did something fun.”

“It was nice for all of us to just be away from home.”

“I was so surprised at what he did and what he was good at.”

That’s what parents had to say after coming to Pine Tree Camp’s Adventure Day Pass this winter.

“For many parents, they got to see their child in an entirely new light when they realized they could do things they’d never seen them do before,” said Pine Tree Camp director Dawn Willard-Robinson. “They were blown away and amazed to see what their child can do at Pine Tree Camp.”

Pine Tree Camp Adventure Day Pass allows Maine children and adults with disabilities and their families the chance to come to camp together for the day, providing much needed time outdoors in a barrier-free environment.

“So often when you’re a special needs parent you can lose sight of the importance of just having fun with your kid,” said Pine Tree Camper mom, Erin. “Sometimes you need to step back from the role of being your child’s advocate. You just want to be your kid’s mom and have fun with them.”

In January, Erin and her son, Jackson, came with his younger sister, Sabrina. Jackson loves to fish and got to try his hand at ice fishing for the first time. They all enjoyed sledding and making s’mores around the camp fire, but the big surprise was how much they loved snowshoeing. Sabrina pushed them all to give it a chance and they were glad they did.

“It was awesome!” Erin said.  “I never in a million years thought that was something we would ever try. It was nice to be surprised how much we all enjoyed it!”

Spending the day at Pine Tree Camp also gave Erin the chance to relax knowing they were in a safe environment. She also appreciated the fact there were so many activities set up that, as a mom, she didn’t have to plan herself. They could just get outside and enjoy being together.

As a school nurse, Erin knows how important being outdoors is for overall well-being, especially for children and families living with disabilities who find it more difficult to get outside.

“Spending the day outside in nature at Pine Tree Camp, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said.  “It’s very grounding and helps quiet your mind. Being outdoors helps reduce depression and anxiety. Our children are lost behind screens right now and anytime we can get them outside in nature helps.”

Pine Tree Camp’s Family Camp returns again in February, giving families the chance to get away from home and spend the weekend together in a cabin. The team is laser-focused on summer and welcoming Pine Tree Campers back in-person for week-long camp sessions.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” said Dawn. “We’re very excited to be able to provide overnight camp sessions again.”

There are stringent Covid safety protocols in place and sessions will be run at 60% capacity, which will provide ample opportunity to spread out.

Dawn and her team are in full swing recruiting camp staff for the summer season and it won’t be long before the sweet sounds of summer camp return. It will be music to their ears.

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