- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Every summer, Bayleigh Schrunk goes off to camp.

Like any other 10-year-old, she gets to go fishing, swimming, canoeing and climbing up a tree. There are arts and crafts, archery and animals. If there weren’t all these other activities going on, she’d sit by the cages of two guinea pigs and a rabbit and watch them all day.

Three years ago, before Camp High Hopes opened, Annie Schrunk counted down the days until her daughter could forget about the frustrations of her disabilities for a while and just have fun and smile, the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/1SNmy1t ) reported.

“I knew it was something that she could experience and not feel like she’s being left behind,” Schrunk said. “She can be here and just feel like a kid. That’s all I wanted for her.”

Bayleigh has cri-du-chat syndrome. She’s missing part of her fifth chromosome, causing intellectual and physical disabilities. She didn’t walk until she was 5 1/2 years old. She cannot eat normally and consumes a special liquid diet to maintain and gain weight. She is nonverbal and knows limited sign language.

All these things about mobility, food and communication get marked on her camp registration packet alongside detailed information about hygiene assistance (does she need help or a reminder to brush her teeth?), night-time routines (does she require a 24-hour attendant or does she sleep through?), personality and behavior (is she easygoing, aggressive or shy?).

The first time Bayleigh went to a weekend camp, Schrunk was excited, then panicked, having one of those “mom moments,” when she realized her oldest daughter would be gone for two whole nights. She’d never been away before.

That was the hardest part. The separation. But since then, Bayleigh’s made friends at camp and lights up when she sees them out in the community. She never had anything like that before. By going to camp, Bayleigh’s gained a level of independence her mom never imagined.

She’s not on the sidelines. She’s playing, participating, smiling. It’s a look beyond words.

Since opening in August 2012, Camp High Hopes has served more than 900 children and adults with disabilities. However, others landed on a waiting list.

To meet a growing need for services, the nonprofit launched a $4.4 million fundraising campaign for Phase II, which would add two camper cabins, a welcome center, climbing silo, boat house, a second dock to launch canoes and paddle boats, an adaptive swing on the beach, kitchen improvements and staff housing.

The master plan, spanning 20 years, calls for more cabins, staff dorms, a stable for horses, an outdoor pool and gym, a stand-alone medical center, nature center and more.

The S’more Smiles Campaign will support improvements, sponsorships and an endowment fund for Camp High Hopes, which has costs that quickly add up.

“Our actual cost just to care for one camper for one week is upwards of $3,000,” CEO Ali Langseth said. “We fundraise over half a million dollars a year just to keep those costs down to something that we think is more affordable for those families, so that gets that down to $600 per camper.”

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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