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A special needs kids camp in Milford celebrates 50 years

MILFORD --  A special camp for kids with special needs is celebrating a special anniversary this summer.

"Good morning Camp Happiness," yells out an enthusiastic Marlene Sanchez, the Executive Director for Milford's Camp Happiness, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, thanks to the version of a man named Don Civitello, who passed away recently.

"He had a vision in 1967 that all children, no matter what their ability, should have a fun camp experience," said Sanchez.

It's a camp that has been just as rewarding for counselors as the special needs kids it caters to.

"Working with different people each summer you kind of see how certain people handle different situations and you get to know, OK, well person A is good with x, y and z," said Zach Attolino, a camp counselor for 14 years.

"I love the varying degrees of children and ages and abilities, but they're all included the same," said Brandi Oberempt, of Milford, whose
11-year-old daughter, Brinley, has attended the camp for six years. And, while she remains non-verbal, Camp Happiness has helped her learn to communicate through typing.

"She has actually been able to express that she loves camp," said Oberempt. "She thinks that camp counselors deserve rewards is what she told me."

Rewards for helping the campers do things they love, is what she typed to her mom.

"What more can you say. It's perfect," added Brinley's mom.

The golden anniversary of Camp Happiness is being celebrated Saturday, August 12, at the Grassy Hill Country Club in Orange. It's called a Night For Happiness.

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