Historic school house repurposed for special summer camp

Canton Township offers summer-long camp for special-needs children

The historic Cherry Hill School house in Canton has been open since the 1830s, and during the summer months it is still very much a place for learning.

"It was a happy accident, but maybe it's a little bit of fate too, you never know," said Jennifer Provenzano, the recreation coordinator for Canton.

"It's probably one of the best camps, probably in Michigan," said Arianna Marie Courtney.

Courtney, who is in fourth grade, is spending her second summer at Camp A.B.L.E.    A.B.L.E. stands achieve, believe, learn and experience.  The camp is for children 8 to 14 with physical and developmental disabilities.

"Camp is exactly what camp should be.  It's field trips, it's activities, it's crafts, it's songs, it's games, it's really teaching them to interact with one another  they really create some great memories here," Provenzano said.

Participants of Camp A.B.L.E. go on field trips Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and experience theme days and swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"We want it to feel like an authentic camp experience.  Yes we make some adaptations, but at the end of the day, we really want it to feel like you know if they had a brother or sister who spent their summer or their day at camp A.B.L.E, they're going to both come home and have the same sort of stories to share they're going to have the same craft projects," said Provenzano.

Local 4 attended Camp A.B.L.E. on superhero day.   The campers and counselors made their own masks and capes and dressed as their favorite superheroes.

"I liked it when they were all dressed up as their favorite superhero and it's actually pretty fun," said Courtney.

"My mask had lots of stickers on," said Andrew.

This is Andrew's sixth summer at Camp A.B.L.E.  The returning campers can play an important role.

"It's really sort of amazing to watch them become a leader among their peers, that part is really cool. Andrew has blossomed in his time here. We really love to see the changes that happen and Arianna is a great example too," said Provenzano.

Adam Payter, a University of Michigan student, is a therapeutic recreation supervisor at the camp.  He is considering a lifelong career with children with special needs and loves his time at Camp A.B.L.E.

'It gives these children a chance to be active and interact and get experiences they might not otherwise get to have, there's not a lot of programs in our area for children with special needs" said Payter.

Payter loves his job and it's the campers who keep him coming back every summer.

"The connection that you can build with these kids to see the way that they care about you to see the way that you can make a difference in their lives that's why i do it," Payter said.

Provenzano said there are not a lot of camps like this in the area.

"We're really kind of the only one like this in southeast Michigan and the western Wayne County area," said Provenzano. "It's not an easy camp to put together because we obviously serve a really broad range of disabilities. As long as they can meet some minimum requirements, you know, go to the bathroom by the themselves and feed themselves and hold themselves then they're welcome at Camp A.B.L.E."

Provenzano, who oversees all the summer camps in Canton Township, said the experience is invaluable for all children.

"It's really important that kids get out and spend their summers in parks and in the grass and the zoo and with other kids, I mean it just feeds every part of your brain and your body."

Camp A.B.L.E. is an all-day summer camp.  Parents can sign their children up based on their needs or schedule whether it's for one day, one week or all summer long. For more information, click here.

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