Amputee children build confidence at QU camp

HAMDEN --  Kids and summer camps are synonymous and a camp at Quinnipiac University this week is unlike most though.

Learning life skills, for those with limb differences, is the primary goal of Camp No Limits, which brings kids and their families together to learn how to live and not just cope.

"Campers come here to learn things that every day kids can participate in," said Cassie Ruff, a Quinnipiac physical therapy graduate student , who is also a camp counselor. "So, everything from bike riding to learning how to tie their shoes to learning how to do their hair."

Quinnipiac University remains the only college or university in the country to host Camp No Limits.

"Pretty much one of the only camps that focuses on the whole family," said Mary Leighton, the Founder of Camp No Limits. "Our mission is education, empowerment and support."

An occupational therapist by trade, Leighton started the camp in Maine 13 years ago.

"One of the kids there, which had just four kids, said it was better than going to Disney World," she said. "So, then, we kind of new that it was something special at that point."

Campers come from across the country, including two families from Connecticut, are taking part in the four day event.

"I learned like to suck my core in and to tighten my hip muscles for like if I do some exercises," said Ryan Fitzpatrick, 12, of Sherman who is a second year camper.

One of the first time camp participants is a double amputee from New Jersey, who is going into her senior year of high school. And, Camp No Limits has inspired her to take a certain career path.

"I want to study to make prosthetic legs and I want to be a nurse for kids with disabilities," said Ashley Mercedes.

One of the camp coaches, a 24-year-old man from Tampa, FL, who lost his arms and legs due to bacterial meningitis six years ago.

"We are here to prove that it's possible for the kids," said Pedro Pimenta.

Saturday night at 6:30, Quinnipiac University's TD Bank Sports Center hosts a a free sled hockey game at 6:30 between the New York Sled Rangers and Connecticut’s Gaylord Sports Association Wolfpack.

The game is open to the public and Admission is free.