Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but the attitude we bring to life.” Unknown Author.
When my husband and I decided to adopt a two-year-old with a limb difference, we expected him to have some limitations. His first room had a bunk bed and I remember thinking that I wouldn't have to worry about a toddler who was missing most of his right hand climbing up a ladder.
Everything you need to know about Camp No Limits Texas
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We very quickly learned that Zack's limb difference didn't limit him at all. He did everything that other kids did and was remarkably adaptive. I spent most of his toddler years saying stuff like “Get down from there,” and “Don't grab that” on a loop. Standard issue toddler parenting phrases, right?
At almost-eight, Zack realizes that his anatomy is put together a little differently than most people's. He's navigating how to handle questions, stares, general rudeness and exclusion. We've had a fairly easy go of it so far but sometimes it's hard to be the kid that stands out when you just want to blend in, no matter how many Dr. Seuss quotes your mom throws at you.
Zack attended Camp No Limits Texas for the first time when he was six. He and my husband made a “guy's weekend” of it. Families can – and are encouraged to – attend camp, but other obligations prevented me from going to this Thursday-Sunday camp.
You might also like: Our experience at Camp No Limits Missouri
I listened to Zack's tales about camp like any parent would. He had a great time. He swam. He took part in activities we didn't normally get to do at home, such as archery and zip lining. I told him I was glad he'd had fun and that I was proud of him and then life went on as normal and I didn't think much about Camp No Limits Texas until the email reminding us about registration landed in my inbox some nine months later.
Honestly? I wasn't sold on the idea of a repeat Camp No Limits. It's out in the middle of nowhere, and while not inconveniently far for us to travel to (less than a three-hour drive from our home), I didn't think the expense was worth it. Camp tuition is roughly $500 per camper and for the four of us to attend, we were looking at two grand. I started looking at other things we could do with $2,000 and most of them started with Disney and ended with World.
If you're a parent of a child with a limb difference that is considering Camp No Limits and have limited funds, PLEASE keep reading or contact someone on the Camp No Limits team about financial assistance. There are lots of options so don't write it off because you think you can't afford it.
But back to me. I didn't think the investment was worth the return to spend a weekend in a rustic cabin in the woods where we'd have to potentially share accommodations with another family. Sure, it was good for Zack to be around other kids with limb differences, but wasn't Zack different from the rest of those other kids? My husband had shown me pictures of the friends Zack had made at camp the previous year. There were some kids who had limb differences similar to Zack but there were also kids who were missing entire arms, missing legs, and in some cases, missing three and four limbs. While I was in awe of their tenacity and general badassery, I didn't relate to those kids. I didn't relate to those families. My kid is missing part of his right hand and he does just fine. He plays soccer and football and is active in martial arts. He does cartwheels and draws and paints and does everything a kid with two hands can do. We didn't need to pay $2,000 to eat camp food and use a communal bathroom when we could do something else that my family would get more out of.
In the end, we decided to attend Camp No Limits Texas as a family – all four of us. At first, Zack and I were going to attend together, and after talking about it a little bit, we decided to bring the entire family and make a weekend out of it. I'm not really sure why we made that decision…not a lot of thought went into it, honestly. We're a family of adventurers and it was kind of a “Sure, why not?” of decision. Maybe it was fate or karma or whatever you believe intervening. I think we all needed to go and somehow, we did.
If you're considering taking your kids to Camp No Limits Texas, do. Camp No Limits has several other locations around the United States, so if Texas isn't workable for you, chose a location that suits you better…but go.
I'm focusing on Camp No Limits Texas because it is what my family experienced and I know the facilities and activities vary from location to location…although the programs and the amazing people who make this operation go are the same. It was an amazing experience for not just Zack, my limb difference kid, but for my entire family. Yes, in spite of the camp food and the communal bathrooms.
Here's what you need to know about Camp No Limits Texas
1. It really is remote
Once you're on the campus, plan on staying there for the duration of camp (Thursday through Sunday*.) Make sure you pack what you need….running to Target or Walmart to grab something you forgot isn't an easy thing to do and the camp schedule moves pretty fast and nonstop.
*We opted to leave Saturday night, as many families do. The Sunday morning activities include breakfast and a brief wrap-up and wanting to be in our own beds won out.
2. Camp for All is amazing all by itself
Camp No Limits Texas is held at a facility outside of Burton, Texas called Camp for All, which is home to several different groups. Camp for All is 100 percent adaptive, which means that anyone can do all of the activities offered at camp.
Our programs were guided by a combination of Camp for All staff and core Camp No Limits staff and volunteers…all amazing people. Everything at Camp for All, from programs to meals, runs like clockwork and the staff are very special people. It makes you feel good just to be there.
3. The food isn't that bad
I mean…don't come expecting to have your taste buds wowed, but the food didn't suck. At Camp No Limits Texas, you get three square meals a day (included in the price of camp.) Some of the programs include snacks as well, such as snow cones at the pool party, S'mores at the campfire, and so on.
Meals are served cafeteria style by cheerful Camp for All staff who take their hat game very seriously. You can't be in a bad mood when someone wearing a pirate hat serves your food, right?
The food is simple: chicken nuggets, pizza, pork chops, BBQ sandwiches, etc and the portions aren't overly generous. In fact, I'd dare to call them skimpy. You can, however, go back through the line to get seconds if you like. If you have a big appetite (or a teenage boy) I would suggest you start making your plans for your second pass at the line shortly after you get your first tray. While the staff is happy to give you seconds, the serving lines don't stay open indefinitely.
The salad bar (available at lunch and dinner) is awesome and there's a peanut butter and jelly station that is open throughout the day in case you get hungry. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated. We don't personally have dietary restrictions but we share tables with several people with vegetarian or vegan trays and I witnessed someone from the kitchen talking through options with a family who had severe food allergies.
4. The cabins are comfy
The cabin we stayed in slept about 18 people. It had bunk beds and a communal bathroom that had three toilets and three showers. It was air-conditioned and the windows had curtains. You do have to provide your own towels, soap and bedding.
We stayed in a family cabin, which means we shared our living space with two other families with boys. We were warned that our family might be split up – In addition to the family cabins, Camp No Limits Texas does mother and kids cabins and father and kids cabins.
Sharing our living space was my least favorite part of Camp No Limits Texas. Our cabin mates were awesome and we enjoyed getting to know them and have plans to see them again before next year's camp so we definitely feel like we won the roomie lottery but it's a situation that's a little outside my comfort zone. It is manageable, and it is only for three nights, so if you get stuck with a snorer or a door-slammer, it's temporary.
A quick word about the WiFi: It's not great but it's there. For me, the signal was strongest on the patio outside the dining area and at the Star Place (gymnasium.) We got almost no signal in our cabin. We are a fairly plugged in family and didn't really miss being tethered to our devices.
5. Follow the packing list
You can't go wrong if you bring what's on the list Camp No Limits Texas provides. I packed mostly old shorts and tee shirts for my kids and athlesuire style clothes for myself. You'll need sturdy, closed-toed shoes for some of the activities but flip-flops and crocks were fine for most things.
We liked having our own refillable water bottles as well as snacks and drinks from home. We were pretty busy with activities the entire time we were at Camp No Limits and didn't really have time to snack but if you need something between meals, you should bring it. I'm not sure if portable camp chairs are allowed at the pool but there is very little seating at the pool, aside from a few benches. If you have visions of lounging beside the water while your small humans splash, you might need to adjust expectations…like a lot.
The one thing I wouldn't really sweat is a prize for the raffle table or super-dressy clothes for the dance. Not everyone brought something for the raffle table and most items brought were fairly inexpensive. We brought a couple of makeup bags to give away and one of my kids won a water balloon set. If you really want to contribute something, grab something at Walmart or Target and call it good.
For the dance, I'd consider a notch above the play clothes your kids wear for camp activities. My boys wore nice cargo shorts and button down shirts with skulls embroidered on them. I wore a tee-shirt dress and my husband wore cargo shorts with a polo shirt. There were people who were more dressed up and dressed down than we were and it wasn't a big deal.
7. Absolutely bring siblings
The decision to bring Kyle, our non-limb difference son, was the best one ever. He had an absolute blast…there are some activities that are for all the kids, like zip lining, archery, animal interactions (plus so much more) and then there are some breakouts where the Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists work with the limb difference kids*. There are lots of great things planned for the sibling group during OT/PT and Kyle loved it all.
In addition to this being a good time, it was good for our family members to see other people with limb differences. We live in a small community and we never see any kids or adults with limb differences. The counselors, volunteers and campers at Camp No Limits Texas were an absolutely inspiring and amazing group of people and we're all better for getting to know them.
*Your limb different kids are probably not going to realize they're in a OT/PT session. The therapists make it super fun. Also, the lower limb different and the upper limb different were split into separate groups.
8. Bring an open mind
There were a couple of different parent forums where we came together as parents without the kids. Honestly, this was my least favorite part. I'm not much of a sharer and touchy-feely stuff makes me twitchy. Anything resembling “woe is me” makes me uncomfortable and if I were given a choice between having dental work and circle time for grownups, I'd really have to stop and weigh my options.
There is value in being open to other people's perspectives and experiences, even if you don't share them or even disagree with them. I don't feel that I have problems or “issues” surrounding my son's limb difference but I've accepted that others might and that there is value in listening to their stories. Even if you don't feel like you have a problem, you might be someone's solution or inspiration. You just never know. We're in a great place right now but you never know what is up around the corner. There is also a lot of validation in telling your story and if you're not going to be a sharer, you're going to help someone by being a listener. This is a challenge for me but it is something I feel is worth working on.
9. Bring your questions
At Camp No Limits Texas, you'll have access to physical and occupational therapists, prosthetic specialists, and adults with limb differences who are living their best lives and kicking some major ass. They are a wealth of information and inspiration and they are there to spend time with you. Take advantage of that and connect.
There are also breakouts available to help kids with biking and running.
10. Learn More
I not only came away from Camp No Limits Texas promising that my family would return next year, I came away wanting more information. I've resolved to learn more about prosthetic care options, about programs that my limb difference kid might benefit from and about the organizations and people who are committed to making Camp No Limits happen across the country. I made friends that I'm excited to see again next year.
Learning all I can about Camp No Limits and groups like the Hanger Foundation is definitely on my agenda for this year. They are doing phenomenal work and making great things possible for kids with limb differences and limb loss.
If you have a child with limb differences or limb loss, I can't recommend Camp No Limits enough. There are 10 locations across the United States, so no matter where you live, there are some different options. Camp No limits Texas is pretty convenient for us but I find myself looking at family vacations in Idaho and California with the idea of combining it with camp.
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We drove from San Antonio to Burton in the awesome Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
About the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- Gas Mileage: The 2018 Highlander Hybrid gets EPA-estimated fuel economy of 29 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
- Back Seat: The Traverse has three rows of roomy seating. The third row folds down to allow you to load up more gear. The Highlander has two complete sets of LATCH child-seat connectors in the second row. We found the LATCH system to be easy to use and had no trouble properly installing the two booster seats for our kids. There was plenty of room in the back for two kids to sit in booster seats comfortably.
- Safety Features: The Highlander Hybrid comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) pre-collision system of driver assistance technologies. That includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. A rearview camera also comes standard. Optional safety features include front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a surround-view camera.
- Entertainment: The 2018 Highlander Hybrid has Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. You'll get a 6.1-inch or an 8 -inch touchscreen, depending on the model. You'll also get HD Radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio or an integrated navigation system. This car has five USB ports to charge mobile devices, which we loved. Even when we're “unplugging” a little bit like we did at Camp No Limits, we still travel with lots of electronics…that's just the way it is now-a-days and Toyota really meets the needs of a modern family with 5 ports.
- Price: Standard vehicle price is $36,670. Options and available add-on’s can take the price up to over $50,000.
- The 2018 Toyota Highlander is a great family car and it was perfect for our drive from the San Antonio area to Burton, Texas for Camp No Limits. This roomy vehicle seats up to eight people comfortably, although we would probably leave the third row folded down unless we had to carry extra passengers. The cargo space in the back is pretty small when the third row is in place…just enough for a small load of groceries.