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Recruiting Your "Camp Mom" Campers

Eight Places to Find Campers for Your Do-It-Yourself Day Camp

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To start your at-home parent-led day camp, you'll need some campers and staff. Fortunately, in my version of "Camp Mom," those come together. If your child already has appropriate playmates, you're way ahead. If not, check these eight spots for compatible campers.

1. Your Child's School

Ask your child if there are classmates he'd like to be friends with, or check with the teacher to see if she seems to get along with anyone in particular. If you have contacts with other parents of kids in the class, float the idea and see who's interested.

2. Your Child's School District

If your district has a parent advocacy group or regularly holds workshops for parents of children with special needs, attend them with an eye to making friends with other moms whose children's camping needs may be similar to yours.

3. Your Church

Your house of worship may not feel like the most welcoming place for your child, but that just means that other families in your shoes will be similarly eager for companionship. Put a notice in the church publication, or consult with the person in charge of religious education to see if they can suggest appropriate kids.

4. Your Therapist's Office

Chances are you log a lot of waiting-room time with other parents. That's a good opportunity to strike up a conversation about summer planning and see if they're in search of a camp solution. Or ask the therapist to recommend a family or two.

5. Your Special-Needs Sports Team

If your child plays on a team for kids with disabilities, or is active in Special Olympics, that probably puts you in the company of a lot of families who may find traditional camps a bad fit. Raise the subject in the bleachers between innings or events.

6. Your Old Camp

If the camps you've tried in the past haven't worked for your child, the same may be true for other children with special needs. If you've made contacts there, or have a list of former companions, see if you can search out other unhappy campers.

7. Your Support Group

If you regularly meet with other moms who share your issues, that's a natural place to find folks you'd be comfortable working with over a summer and inviting them and their youngsters to participate.

8. Your Neighborhood

Often, parents of children with special needs feel isolated in their neighborhoods, surrounded by high-functioning kids and highly competitive moms. But if you've noticed other special-needs kids at the park, or the store, or the birthday parties, this is a good excuse for striking up a conversation and planning a get-together.

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