Music filled the air at the Western Youth Camp as a special summertime tradition returned to Lake Jacksonville this week.
Campers from all over came together for the annual Camp Courage campout. Camp Courage is a summer camp for physically handicapped children. The camp was founded in 1976 by four area families who had handicapped children and could not attend regular summer camps.
The first camp started with eight campers and has grown to the point of needing a cap on the number of campers that can attend each year. John Hunter with Camp Courage says without counting 2020 when the camp couldn’t be held due to the pandemic, Camp Courage has now been held for 46 years.
25 campers joined in the fun this week. Hunter says that’s well below the maximum number allowed at the camp. “After Covid it’s been down a little bit. We cap at 35, we can’t take any more than that we don’t have the bed space or the counselor space for that. So we cap at 35, but we’d like to see our numbers come back up a little bit. But you know after Covid and getting things turned around, it’s not too bad.”
One annual tradition that wasn’t experienced this week by the campers was dealing with the sweltering heat and humidity during Camp Courage week. Hunter says this year’s camp has been pleasant, at least after the rains early in the week finished passing through.
“We’ve had a very good year. The weather has cooperated other than a little rain on Monday night that made things a little slick and a little muddy. We had a couple of wheelchairs get stuck and maybe a golf cart get stuck here or there but all in all, it did dampen our swimming time. But all in all, we overcome and have a good time.”
Campers enjoyed traditional camp activities such as swimming, canoeing, and horseback riding, as well as other activities such as a pair of dance parties that were held during the week.
Casey’s DJ Service entertained the campers in the pavilion Tuesday night, and the band Harmony Grits played the camp’s annual prom night dance on Thursday while the Grotto Bus dished out cotton candy, ice cream, and sno-cones to the hungry campers.
The strictly non-profit organization relies on donations of both time and funding to give the campers a full camping experience each year with entertainment and vendors also donating their time and wares to the camp.
To make or donation, or to find out more information about how to attend Camp Courage next year, contact John Hunter by calling 217-473-6363 or dropping into his work at Rex Battery on South Main Street. You can also go online to the camp web page at www.campcourage.info