When I was eighteen years old, I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time, into a college apartment just off campus. My parents and my two younger brothers all came along to help with the move. After my family left, my roommates turned to me as one and demanded,

“Why didn’t you warn us?”

I had no clue what they were talking about.

My brother Robert was born with his right arm ending just below his elbow. I was five when he was born. I also have a cousin who happens to have Cerebral Palsy and has used a wheelchair most of his life. So it never occurred to me that anything was amiss, and that someone not accustomed to being around people with disabilities might be uncomfortable without a heads up to expect an unconventional appearance.

It took some time for me to process their reaction, to realize that it was not coming from a bad place, but from a desire to be accommodating, to not react in a way that may have made my little brother feel awkward. As the years have passed and the stigma of disability has waned, more and more people see the need to include people with disabilities of all ages in activities that were once unheard of for them. Climbing up into a treehouse? Navigating a ropes course? Kayaking? Riding a horse? At one time, these things were completely out of reach for those with disabilities. Nowadays these activities are just par for the course – if you can find the right course, that is.

The Fowler Center has been providing these activities and more to our campers, who range in age from 6 to 99, for over 60 years. They get to experience all of the amazing activities that summer camp has to offer because our founder, Jack Fowler, had a vision, and our agency, MCHS Family of Services, provides the opportunity for us to continue that vision and expand upon it. So come check out our “course” – 200 acres in Michigan’s thumb, 200 acres of barrier-free fun for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. You’ll fall in love.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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