TULSA, Okla. — This year is the 10th summer for a unique Tulsa camp. From Cheerleading to canoeing, Hope's Crossing is a camp with a can-do attitude.
"We are basically a camp for kids with disabilities. What makes us different is that we are in an outdoor camp environment," says Camp Director Susan Pierce.
One week each summer, 180 wooded acres at Camp Loughridge transforms to meet the unique needs of special needs kids.
"They're 9-15 in age and have all kinds of disabilities. From cancer to cerebral palsy to spina bifida. Our goal is to help them have a good summer and have a good week helping them have fun doing something they would normally not get to do," says Pierce.
We witnessed that within minutes as Desirae Zerbe caught a fish. "I haven't done that in my whole life," Zerbe exclaimed.
She's one of five kids in her family here.
"It's my second year," Zerbe says.
And it's her brother Michael's first time. "It feels fun to be out here!" he says.
Each camper is paired with a counselor aged 17 to 25. Many are college students studying physical therapy, speech pathology, and special education, like Claire Crismon, who is back for her fourth summer.
"Getting to see our campers here in wheelchairs getting to go canoeing or get to go with Ainsley's Angels where they can run a marathon, it just makes my day," says Crismon.
The camp runs off two basic principles. First, all campers attend free of tuition. Second, all the staffers are volunteers.
"As a parent of a child with special needs, it can be overwhelmingly expensive. Some of the wheelchairs cost thousands of dollars, so to offer them something that is no charge and can help them, it's a privilege for us, and they are happy to receive it," says Pierce
Hope's Crossing can do that through private donations and grants. Susan's dad, Bob Degen, started the non-profit, which has given the full summer camp experience to more than 100 different kids so far.
"They're special kids!" says Pierce
This is a camp with heart, where everyone says the people are the best part.
"You can meet new friends," says Zerbe.
"I get so much happiness and so much perspective after spending time with these kids. They really change your life," says Crismon.
If you have a child who would like to attend or if you'd like to volunteer or learn more, click here.
Learn more about Hope's Crossing and see the kids in action Friday night at 6 p.m. on 2 News Oklahoma