As many of you know, Aaron’s Acres was started by a group of parents who saw a need within the community and responded to that need. A one-week half-day camp program was held at the Lancaster Jewish Community Center for children, ages 5-9 with varying abilities and disabilities. For that first summer, there were 11 campers. Now, 25 years later, things have changed just a bit! With each year, growth and expansion occurred based on feedback from the families, staff and the larger community.
Here are some of the highlights that have taken place since 1998:
- Increased the number of summer camp weeks to 6 weeks of programming (3 two-week sessions, half and full day programs offered)
- Increased the ages of the campers to age 21
- In 2019, approximately 220 campers attended the summer program
- Introduced the buddy program (high school students who act as positive role models for our participants)
- Created a monthly school year program
- Friday evenings for ages 13-21 (going into the community for typical adolescent-like activities)
- Saturday evenings for ages 5-12 (partnering with Millersville University, with the school of education/special education)
- Volley for Kids fundraising event began and lasted for over 12 years, raising a total of over $150K
- Annual Golf Outing at Bent Creek Country Club began and we are now in our 13th year (in 2022, we raised over $95K)
- Created a community service component entitled “Aaron’s Acres Acts of Kindness” for campers, ages 13-21 (participating in community service projects in the afternoons after attending camp in the morning)
- Created a group called the “A-Team” for adolescents who fall under the autism spectrum, but had the “Asperger’s” diagnosis (a term which is no longer used)
- Created a volunteer/fundraising group called the Dream Makers who support our programs through volunteering as well as donations
- Created the Angels Group, which is made up of typical adolescents in high school who support our programs and learn about people with varying disabilities
- Created virtual camp and school year programs in response to COVID-19 pandemic
- Chuckie Magee Flag Football and Cheerleading program became a program under the Aaron’s Acres’ umbrella (ages 21-40), meeting in the fall
- Created the Aaron’s Acres Adult Sports League for ages 21-40 during the year to continue with this athletic program
What a journey it has been for the past 25 years! We know that looking ahead, more meaningful programs are to come as we continue to address the needs of individuals with disabilities. During this celebratory year, in upcoming blogs, we will highlight and provide more details regarding certain programs in order for our community to better understand all that we do for this population.
There is no question that we are where we are today because of the support that we have received from so many! Everyone at Aaron’s Acres is most grateful that there is a strong belief in all that we are doing and hope to do moving forward. The past 25 years has been more than any of us could have ever imagined…… and we can’t wait for the next 25 years!