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Van Buren County group hosts outdoor adventure event for kids with special needs

Camp Kidwell hosted the event and partnered with the Van Buren County Voyagers and over a dozen other community groups and businesses to put on the mostly volunteer event. (WWMT/Jake Berent)

A first of its kind summer camp in southwest Michigan brought outdoor activities to special needs kids who struggle to enjoy themselves in other, more crowded environments to make sure no child is left inside.

"This is called O.A.K.S. -- or Outdoor Adventures for Kids with Special needs. It's an outdoor fair for children that may have different abilities that we do, to come out and do things you and I would do without even thinking about it,” Alex Definita of the Van Buren County Voyageurs, said.

For children like Maddie, it’s a wonderland of energy and fun.

"She just turned 8-years-old, she has down syndrome and celiac [disease]. She is very energetic, very loving, is not afraid of anything,” Maddie’s parent, Gail Jarboe, laughed.

Camp Kidwell hosted the event and partnered with the Van Buren County Voyagers and over a dozen other community groups and businesses to put on the mostly volunteer event.

"It's not just for the kids. A lot of times, it's for the caregivers or parents as well, because they may not know what their child likes or what they want to do. So, this gives them a chance to see and try things that maybe they haven't thought about,” Definita said. "We're seeing a lot of problems actually pop up with attention spans, with emotional issues, and physicians are actually prescribing what they call a nature prescription, where you need to get out more, you need to go outside."

For Maddie, a day like today is just what the doctor ordered.

"She'll be talking about this for a long time,” Jarboe said.

Over 60 families came out to the inaugural event, and Definta says they're hoping make their special needs outdoor camp every other year.

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