Editor’s Note: Clete Taylor is a volunteer counselor at Camp Dream located in Warm Springs, Georgia. Each summer Clete donates his time to help disabled children experience life and joy despite their situations. Camp Dream accepts children and young adults as campers and adapts to their different disabilities and illnesses. The children always come first while their financial situations are secondary. These young people find a freedom at Camp Dream they’ve never experienced before and have amazing adventures they’ve only thought were dreams. Part 2 of a 4-part series.
Clete Taylor dated Beverly, the director of Camp Dream. Since Beverly committed to play a major role in Camp Dream, she wanted Clete to experience this major part of her life. Today Clete Taylor speaks first, followed by Beverly and her heartwarming experience.
Clete Taylor: Camp Dream started as a project to help children and young adults on the grounds of the Roosevelt Institute for Rehabilitation in Warm Springs, Georgia by a group called the Jaycees. Even at the outset of the project, everyone that was involved agreed that the camp would be barrier free meaning any child or young adult with any type of special needs would be accepted. When I married Beverly, the current director of the camp, she insisted I attend at least one session of Camp Dream, but I really did not feel the need. At that point, the camp had been in business for about 12 years. Beverly had been involved in fundraisers for the camp, went from counselor to director. She’s been the camp director at Camp Dream for eight years now. When I finally went to the camp and met my camper, Michael, I knew within 15 minutes that I’d be involved with Camp Dream for the rest of my life. I fell in love with the kids and the mission and was excited to see where this journey would lead me.
A Life’s Mission with Beverly Taylor: My sister found out about the idea of helping children with special needs at Camp Dream and immediately told me, “Beverly, this isn’t for me, but it’s just right for you.” She knows I have a servant’s heart and love to help others, so she invited me to join this group in 1986. I loved the program. At my first meeting I saw this big banner, and everyone jumped and chanted, “Camp Dream, Camp Dream.” I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the group. When I asked, “What is Camp Dream?” someone explained to me, “Camp Dream is a project that the Jaycees have undertaken to provide a summer camp program for special needs kids who can’t attend a regular summer camp. These children either have disabilities that other camps cannot cater to or have financial issues. There would be so many children who would never have a fun and valuable summer camp experience unless we raise the money and volunteer to help at the camp.”
When I learned about the mission at Camp Dream, I said, “I’ll raise money.” I loved children, and I felt that Camp Dream was a way to help these children. The Jaycees are a leadership organization that trains members to be leaders in the community. Camp Dream was the perfect opportunity for the Jaycees to complete their mission for service to the community. The Georgia Jayceetes, the female version of the Jaycees, had discussed the idea of Camp Dream with the men. Before the two organizations became one, the men began raising money. The Jayceetes recruited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the lake at Camp Dream for no cost. The Roosevelt Institute for Rehabilitation had the property where the camp could be built, and they were also associated with some major foundations that could help with the funding of the project.
Today we have two cabins with 44 beds. Since we have one counselor for each special needs child, we can take 22 kids and 22 counselors at a time. When I went to the camp as a counselor, my first camper was a boy named Michael who had cerebral palsy and could barely talk. I fell in love with him after the first hour of meeting him. After working with Michael through that first session of camp, I swore to myself that there never would be another camp held in which I wasn’t involved. My passion for helping these young people grew stronger. For the first two years, I was a counselor. I accepted more responsibility and became a member of the staff. The counselor and staff positions are not paid—this is strictly volunteer work. I worked as a staff member for a few years before I was promoted to assistant director. Shortly thereafter, I became the director of Camp Dream.
In 2010, we only held one session of camp, because that was all the funding we had, and we hosted 50 special needs children. The year 2010 was a heartbreak for me, since we had 38 more children who wanted to come. Having to turn those young people away absolutely broke my heart. It is not right to turn children away. I went to the board and declared, “This should never happen again.” In 2011, we had three sessions and were able to provide the camp experience for 111 kids. A camp session is Thursday morning until Sunday, a three and a half day camp. Our volunteers include Jaycees, nursing students and college students.
To learn more about Camp Dream, and see the amazing work of the volunteers who serve a higher purpose, please click here.
Next: Lots of Crying, Tons of Laughter and a Big Dance with Beverly Taylor of Camp Dream
About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com