Camp Caglewood provides adventures for those with disabilities.
Published: March 1, 2018
By: Emily Reed
Children and adults with developmental disabilities are challenged to work together and overcome obstacles through Camp Caglewood’s unique adventures program.
“The Caglewood program is designed for campers with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc.,” says Paul Freeman, who founded the camp with his wife Jessica Freeman in 2001. “Campers range in age from 12 to 60, and we foster a family atmosphere.”
Camp Caglewood, based in Flowery Branch, GA, is a 501 c3 non-profit and is funded through donations and tuition. “What makes us unique is that we have zero paid staff and zero fund-raising spending,” Freeman adds. “One hundred percent of donations go directly to improving the program and reducing the cost to campers.”
Many of the campers come from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia for mostly weekend trips set all across the southeast. Freeman says the trips vary but can include camping in locations such as a cave, on a secluded island or in a swamp.
Activities range from peaceful and educational to exhilarating, including art, museums, whitewater rafting, hiking, canoeing, theme parks and rock climbing.
A complete list of trips can be found on the organization’s website (www.Caglewood.org). Freeman says many of the adventures are limited in the summer months and typically occur in the spring and fall. “There are many summer programs, so we try to offer our adventures in the non-summer months,” Freeman explains. “We’re giving parents and guardians more options when they need it the most.”
On average, there are usually 15-20 campers and 5-10 adventure guides for a trip, with the goal being to keep the camper to volunteer ratio at two-to-one, Freeman says.
“We hope that everyone, campers, and volunteers alike, go away understanding that no matter what adventure comes next they can thrive,” Freeman adds. “We want them to know that Camp Caglewood is part of their family.”
The Freemans served at Camp Glisson, a camp in Georgia, as counselors and program leadership while in college, according to the organization’s website. Paul Freeman served on the board at Camp Glisson for a short time and studied special education and Christian education at Presbyterian College, and Jessica Freeman worked with two brain injury programs where she performed occupational and art therapy. Jessica Freeman also facilitated the move of several clients from group homes to independent living, according to the website.
The Freemans worked together to develop the Caglewood business plan and established Caglewood Incorporated in September of 2001. In the spring of 2002, the first Caglewood Camping adventure was launched.
“We were called by our Christian faith to serve populations in need by following the one command to ‘love one another,’” Paul Freeman says. “To this day, ‘love one another’ is the single guiding principle of the program. Our goal is to provide rich and memorable experiences while improving self-confidence and independence levels to our campers, and a respite experience for parents during which they can feel secure that their loved one is not only being well taken care of, but most likely having the time of their life.”
Freeman says one of the most enjoyable aspects of running a camp is all of the friends he meets. “The campers of Camp Caglewood are some of the best friends of my life,” Freeman says. “As my kids have grown old enough to volunteer, I am blessed to see that they have found the same strong friendships. When we are off on an adventure we are certainly working hard, but it is a work of love. And, the love we get in return makes it the greatest work we could do.”
Adventure costs range from $50-$350. For more information, visit www.Caglewood.org.
Emily Reed is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to her son, Tobias.