Free summer camp open to children with special needs, disabilities

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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LAPLACE — Like most parents of special needs children, Jennifer Frizzell of LaPlace was apprehensive about sending her teenage daughter with Down Syndrome to a week-long summer camp four hours away. But, as Trinity inches closer to finishing high school, Frizzell knows it’s vital to expose her to activities other children enjoy while giving her an opportunity to realize her talents and interests.

Trinity loved her first trip to the Louisiana Lions Camp in summer 2019. Surrounded by peers with intellectual disabilities, including three other kids from St. John the Baptist Parish, Trinity enjoyed a traditional summer camp experience of arts and crafts, swimming and archery.

Louisiana Lions Camp is located in Anacoco, Louisiana, near Leesville.

For the past nine months, she’s talked about how much fun it was helping out at the camp carnival and singing songs around the campfire each night.

For more than 60 years, the Louisiana Lions Camp has provided facilities, programming and unforgettable experiences for children with special needs, respiratory disorders, juvenile diabetes and cancer. There are six one-week programs offered through the months of June and July to children in the River Parishes at no cost to local families.

As a local chapter of the largest service organization in the world, the LaPlace Lions Club is dedicated to bettering the lives of children. Local coordinator Melynie Wright said LaPlace Lions Club fundraisers like the Krewe Du Monde ball/parade support incredible summer experiences.

There isn’t a cap to how many children the LaPlace Lions Club will send to camp for free. The LaPlace Lions are seeking more participation for this program, which they feel has been underutilized in the community.

“Children go to camp and come back with their own social network. Any time you get an opportunity to do something that brings you immense joy, you come back to your community and schools as a more well-rounded human being,” Wright said.

While new experiences better the lives of any child or adult, Wright said there’s an immense need for inclusivity to help every child live up to his or her potential.

“I think we fail miserably as a society in that we don’t look at everybody as being part of everybody,” she said. “We can improve as communities when we provide opportunities where everyone feels like they matter, that we see them. We fail when we don’t see the differences and support them.”

Trinity Jacobs of LaPlace is packed and ready for a summer camp adventure.

Frizzell said the Louisiana Lions Camp does a great job of capturing populations of youth that could not participate in summer programs without accommodations. With nursing staff on-site, compassionate volunteers and videos posted online throughout the week, Frizzell was assured her daughter was in good hands.

This year, Frizzell hopes to see more local children attend the camp. She said St. John the Baptist Parish should fill its own bus, given how many children in the local school system qualify for the cost-free program.

“People are apprehensive about putting their child out there,” Frizzell said. “It takes a lot of planning and preparation to go anywhere with a special needs child. It can be exhausting, but until you regularly start doing it, it doesn’t get any easier for you or the child.”

While Trinity has a mental disability, she also has a lot of capabilities. She’s a social butterfly with a personality as bright as a ray of sunshine. She loves singing, swimming, bowling, dancing and taking care of people and animals.

“It can be difficult to find summer activities that special needs children can participate in,” Frizzell said. “The Louisiana Lions Camp is an opportunity for her to have that normal experience other kids get. I was extremely nervous, but I feel confident this year after seeing how much she loved it.”

The Louisiana Lions Camp is located at 292 L. Beauford Drive in Anacoco, Louisiana, and transportation to the camp is provided via an air-conditioned coach bus.

The physically disabled program is offered to children ages 7 to 19 as of June 1. This program is ideal for children with vision or hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, congenital heart defects, speech defects or other conditions.

Campers in the pulmonary program must be ages 5 to 15 by Dec. 31. Ventilator-assisted children and children with cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchial disorders and/or tracheal disorders are welcomed.

Transportation to the Louisiana Lions Camp is provided by bus.

Campers in the mentally disabled program must be between 8 and 19 years old as of June 1 and should have a functioning age of 5 years or older.

The diabetes program is offered to campers ages 6 to 14 as of Aug. 1. Louisiana Lions Camp also offers the challenge program to children ages 6 through 14 with hematology, oncology and sickle cell disorders.

Wright said she would be happy to sit down with any family to answer questions. She can be reached at 225-328-6084.

For more information about Louisiana Lions Camp, call 337-239-6567 or visit