New Music Park Wins Over Camp Guests and Bolsters Inclusivity

Camp Courageous is a non-profit organization providing year-round recreational and respite care opportunities for individuals with special needs.

For nearly 50 years the team at Camp Courageous has looked for unique and different ways to reach all of their campers who each have additional educational and physical needs, and their most recent addition, a musical park, is proving to have a particularly remarkable impact.

According to Amy Kurth, program director, the idea of an outdoor musical space took root over two years ago when she first joined Camp Courageous. She had researched the idea and could immediately see the benefits for their camp guests. "Camp supports a huge variety of people with ranging diagnoses and abilities and is always looking for new ways to engage them. Camp has a bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, wonderful activities on the beautiful Lake Todd, and a new 700ft zip-line. However, I could see that the large musical instruments and the stepping-stones pathway would intrigue and engage everyone regardless of their physical or cognitive needs."

It was also at this time that the local Monticello Rotary Club was moving towards its centenary celebrations and looking for a service project that would benefit the local community. The club organized a committee to pinpoint certain needs within the Monticello community and various locations where a Rotary Club project could make a difference.

“The committee reached out to several groups and organizations in the area and asked what types of needs they had,” explained Rotary member Tom Osborne. They learned from Camp Courageous CEO Charlie Becker that the camp had been thinking of building an outdoor music park for some time, “It seemed to be a good fit with our club,” said Osborne.

Through a variety of fundraisers, grants, and sponsors, the Rotary Club was able to support the project with a view to donating more instruments in the future.

“We’re pretty proud of it and I think all of Rotary Club in Monticello would say the same thing,” says Rotary member Kathy Pratt.

It was during Amy's research that she became aware of the benefits of outdoor musical instruments tuned to the pentatonic scale - meaning that however many people are playing the various instruments at the same time, the resulting sound will always be beautifully harmonized. Giving campers such a positive feeling of success, independence, and increased confidence was something she could see would be a wonderful addition to the camp. The instruments would clearly be ideal to help bolster the camp's vision of inclusivity, supporting a wide range of people with disabilities of all ages from 4 to 104!

Amy discussed the project with the team at Percussion Play - giving them background information on the campers and their range of needs along with the available budget. Taking into account the range of ages and abilities, the team recommended a suitable collection of instruments that would appeal; some for younger and some for older individuals. These included a Rainbow Cavatina with accompanying Music Book, Babel Drums, Papilio, Alto Diatonic Freechimes, Tembos, and Calypso Quatro Post. Very soon, the wonderful team of volunteers from the Monticello Rotary Club had installed the instruments and camp began to immediately start seeing their impact.

Amy tells us that the spot chosen for the instruments sits right in the middle of the camp so as campers move from one end to the other, they are drawn towards them, "They definitely prove to be irresistible for campers! Many individuals with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or other special needs often experience challenges due to a lack of adaption when they participate in sports or recreational activities. When they are unable to participate with their peers, they miss out on the social and health benefits these activities provide. However, when they see the music park, they are captivated and begin either playing on the drums or using mallets to chime the large-scale xylophone. And of course, for those that utilize wheelchairs, the stepping-stones pathway gives them a different way to engage with the sounds."

"While some campers engage in group activities, others chose to spend their time at camp doing more sensory-based activities. One young man with a behavioral disorder attended camp for the first time after being housebound throughout the pandemic. His day at camp was clearly going to be a big change for him, so we were all prepared to help him have a successful camp experience. While at camp, he spent most of his day with the instruments; as, like many individuals with similar diagnoses, he finds the music area to be relaxing and soothing. It wasn’t long before counselors recognized the therapeutic, sensory benefits that the music offers our campers, especially those with autism or visual impairments."

The Rotary Music Park is now a favorite with all campers, a wonderful addition to Camp Courageous, and the perfect celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Monticello Rotary Club.

“We know that campers love music and so we thought, wouldn’t this be ideal? It’s been on our wish list for a long, long time,” says CEO Charlie Becker. “Every activity is a little bit different, but this is one where you can have campers who use wheelchairs, campers that have a wide variety of disabilities all come together and entertain each other."

Amy concludes "Every day I see campers with big smiles on their faces playing next to and with each other. It brings people together who come from different backgrounds and may not normally find themselves together. Everyone finds their own way of engaging with the music; every day is beautiful and full of new possibilities.

No matter what disability a camper has, the music park brings them all together. Each day they are there, playing alongside each other. Some may not be able to hold the mallet, but they always find various ways to engage with the instruments to make beautiful musical sounds."