ST. PAUL, Ind. (WISH) — Kids whose parents are diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gherig’s disease, often have to grow up quickly. Sometimes things like summer camp just aren’t a reality for them.
One woman is working to change that and make a positive impact in the lives of these kids.
This week, for the first time, Camp Hope Loves Company is taking place in Indiana. It’s a free summer camp for kids whose parents or grandparents battled or battle ALS.
Thursday at Camp Hope Loves Company, two dozen kids learned how to do a yoga tree pose. It was a fun way for them to bond and to de-stress.
“I find these camps really helpful for me,” camper Aleks Rice said.
Rice, 17, is grateful for the activity and for the other campers.
“When I come here, I’m included, and people know what you’re going through and you don’t have to explain anything to anybody, they just know,” she said.
Rice and all the kids have been deeply impacted by ALS.
“My dad had it and he passed away back in 2014,” Rice said, “It was very, very hard on me and that’s kind of why I became so antisocial.”
She feels like she can’t relate to other kids back home like she can with these new friends.
“I have seen a lot more than people in my school have because they didn’t have to watch their parent or grandparent, anyone they love, slowly deteriorate in front of them,” she said.
The camp helps her know that she’s not alone.
That’s one of the main reasons Jodi O’Donnell-Ames started Hope Loves Company.
“Many of them have never even met another child who knows about ALS,” she said.
The camps are designed to have two goals.
“Giving them a fun experience of camping like at this wonderful campground,” O’Donnell-Ames said, “So normal things and also infusing the conversation about ALS and how they’re doing.”
She was asked by a parent to bring the camp to Indiana for the first time this year. So far, it’s been a success.
“Our goal is to come back right here again next year,” she said.
The camp is taking place at the Flat Rock River YMCA Camp Ruth Lilly Outdoor Center south of Shelbyville.
Along with continuing to have camps in Indiana, O’Donnell-Ames is hoping to add even more states to the list.