HAMDEN — The more than 20 campers gathered at Quinnipiac University’s York Hill campus Friday, July 12, were different ages, but they all had something in common — some form of limb loss.
The participants had gathered for a camp geared just for them, called Camp No Limits. The youngest camper was four years old. The oldest campers were teenagers. Since 2015, Quinnipiac University is the only university to host a Camp No Limits program on campus.
Limb loss or limb difference can include partially amputated legs and arms or entire arms and legs.
The camp’s staff is primarily Quinnipiac occupational therapy and physical therapy students, other volunteers and previous campers who had come back as mentors. Those volunteers developed the programs campers were participating in last Friday, which included relay races, volleyball, basketball and riding bicycles.
Sarah Reid, an 11 year old camper and Cheshire resident, said her favorite activity is the field day.
“Even though it’s competitive you still get to be open with everybody, playing games,” she said. “And I’ve learned that there’s other people in the world like me. It’s really great.”
Mary Leighten, an occupational therapist from Maine, founded the program 15 years ago. The first camp had four children, and has expanded to serve hundreds of campers in 10 various locations in other states, including California, Texas, Florida and Maryland.
Erin Bracken, 23, a recent graduate of Quinnipiac’s occupational therapy program, was among the volunteers guiding campers through the various activities. Bracken said it was her second year working with the program.
“For a lot of us, this is our first time, hands on participating with clients with limb differences,” Bracken said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity ... It’s so nice because the kids are so excited to be here.”
For Cheshire residents Guy and Linda Reid, Camp No Limits has provided their family with an opportunity to be among other families with shared experiences. The Reids adopted three children, including Sarah. All of them were born with limb differences.
Guy Reid said the family became involved with the camp five years ago, when they were living in Pennsylvania.
“We were trying to find a place where our children wouldn’t have to be stared at and could be treated just like any other kid,” he said.
The camp has also provided parents with their own support group. They receive information on different devices and how to help children cope with the emotional side of being perceived as different.
For Leighton, it’s been a joy seeing the program grow from its first summer — when four campers participated — to having 10 camp sites with hundreds of participants.
“That’s what this is all about: helping children’s lives,” Leighton said.