Despite their disabilities, they come to camp for a week in the summer and ride horses, sleep under the stars and run obstacle courses.
The children have come to Camp Kostopulos year after year for a break in their normal routine. It's a place where, no matter how disabled or poor you are, summer camp is an option for you.What keeps places like Camp Kostopulos open is volunteers. Earlier this month, three national service organizations combined for a service project designed to give the kids at camp even more one-on-one attention.
The activities included horseback riding, swimming, fishing, arts and crafts, the huge "earthball" - a 6-foot ball the campers can jump on - and a rope course suspended some 30 feet off the ground.
Patrick Smith, 22, is a member of the National Civilian Community Corps, a kind of domestic Peace Corps. The Portland State University graduate has been at Camp Kostopulos for five weeks with 13 other NCCC members. Each earns a small stipend for education-related costs.
Smith wanted to give something back to society, which is why he postponed graduate work for a year to take part in the 10-month NCCC experience. He has painted houses in San Diego and cleaned up neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Camp Kostopulos has been the most rewarding, he said. He and his NCCC partners built a boat dock, a pool house and a loading dock so children with disabilities can more easily climb on a horse at the camp up Emigration Canyon.
The children they've worked with have physical and mental impairments.
Smith and his buddy, 19-year-old Willy, laugh easily together. Willy says he likes camp and he likes basketball player Kobe Bryant. And, he likes Sprite.
Ann Mills directs the AmeriCorps and the Medically Underserved in Utah, a group of individuals who work in community health care centers, homeless shelters and other settings to help people with barriers gain access to health care.
Mills said the service day at camp gave her AmeriCorps workers a chance to see others involved in service and spend time volunteering for a different segment of society.
Charles Brandenburg, 14, said he and his foster brothers are having a fun time at camp. His favorite part is the ropes course.
"It's a challenge, it's scary and it's fun all at the same time," Brandenburg said.
Rich Parks, who manages the Salt Lake County Service and Conservation Corps, took his employees out of schools where they normally focus on literacy to Camp Kostopulos to spend the day. All the individuals from the three service organizations are paid for their normal work, but the pay is very minimal. They deal with tough cases and help people and communities in crisis. Parks praised them for that.
"It never ceases to amaze me," Parks said, "how many people there are with that kind of ethic toward the community."