PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Sunday kicked off day one of Camp Patrick, a free week-long unique camp aimed at giving children living with Spina Bifida a chance to be a kid. 

Spina Bifida is a birth defect involving the spine. Depending on severity, some people may have limited ability to walk. 

"It's a week that they can be with people just like them, people who have Spina Bifida and don't have to worry about being different and being the only kid in a wheel chair," said Tommy Reeve, Camp Patrick's director. "Seventy percent of our kids are in wheel chairs and most of them have braces on their legs."

Reeve's six-year-old son, who was born with Spina Bifida, was the inspiration for the program. Reeve had a hard time finding a camp for him.  

Eighty kids, ages 6-18, will get to go horseback riding, learn archery, participate in other sports along with arts and crafts. 

There's a team of 95 volunteers who are doctors, nurses, firefighters, and teachers. 

Reeve said it's the only camp of its kind in the western part of the United States. This is only their second year running it. 

"Most of these kids can't go to camp because of their disabilities and the cost, so we have special trained staff that come up and everybody volunteers. They're all trained to help kids with Spina Bifida a and their needs," he said. 

However, Reeve said the camp is more than about having fun.

"We're trying to build a community for these kids so as they get older, they have good networking so they can get jobs and gain a lot of confidence and become really good people," he explained.

Brendan Johnson, 12, of Safford can't wait to get on the bus. This is his second year attending Camp Patrick. 

"I'm just looking forward to making more friends and having lots of fun!" said Johnson. "It makes me feel good. Makes me excited to learn about their stories and stuff." 

His father, Calvin, said his son got more out of camp than having fun.

Last year, he and his wife were surprised when they went to pick him up.  

"He was playing cards with some of his buddies and he turned around and said 'hey mom' and kept playing with his cards," explained Johnson.  

"So I think at that time, I kinda did a fist-pump in my head and was like yes, he's independent and it was real fun to see," he said. 

To learn more about Camp Patrick, click here. 

 


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