Milford camp brings happiness to kids with special needs

MILFORD — Camp Happiness will once again offer year-round programming for children with special needs.

The Milford Adaptive Programming, known locally as MAPs, offers its services from September through May. Then Camp Happiness starts at the end of June and goes through August.

“Camp Happiness is six-week special needs summer program run through the recreation department,” said Director Marlene Sanchez. “Last fall, we started year-round Camp Happiness, which is Milford Adaptive Programming (MAPs).

“Those of us who run Camp Happiness would joke around saying we wished camp would run year-round, and then last year, Bill Garfield, the recreation director, came up to me and asked me if I wanted to do programming throughout the year for the kids,” said Sanchez. “I asked my experienced staff if they’d be willing to be able to coordinate it, and they jumped at the opportunity.”

When they started MAPs, Sanchez said organizers designed different clubs for children and teens with special needs to participate in activities such as book clubs and sports activities.

“We are trying to expand programming camp all year round, but we are also trying to expand programming for children who age out of camp, which is 12 years old,” said Sanchez. “When they turn 13, there are not a lot of programs being offered with kids with special needs, and unfortunately, the kids don’t go to other clubs maybe because of emotional or behavioral issues.

“We have created these programs run by people who are certified and know how to work with children with special needs,” she continued. “We created these programs where these kids can be successful, have peers to participate with and have a positive experience outside of school and camp.”

One of the ways Camp Happiness can offer year-round programming is through events like the Engine 260 Fire Muster, which was held Sept. 10 at Eisenhower Park.

“For 49 years now, the proceeds from the food tent goes to Camp Happiness,” said Sanchez. “We’ve always had a nice partnership with them, and the staff volunteer help man the booth on Saturday so that the Muster doesn't have to worry about having enough people to provide the food services for all the people that come and enjoy the Muster.”

Last year, MAPs closed their fall programming with an adaptive stage play of “Frozen,” and this time around, Sanchez they are planning to do an adaptive stage play of “The Little Mermaid.”

“We are looking for all kinds of people to participate and volunteer,” she said.