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Kids with autism make friends and lifelong memories at Camp Encourage

LINWOOD, Kan. -- The Center for Disease Control estimates one in every 68 children is diagnosed with autism. The diagnosis comes with a variety of challenges for families, but a small camp in Linwood, Kan. is making a huge impact and campers are coming away changed.

Toe-tapping tunes, good friends, games and fun. Camp Encourage is filled with the things everyone loves about camp.

Oliver Busenart would know. He's been coming for years.

"We get to horseback riding, swimming a lot of fun activities that you get to choose like fishing, arts crafts and all that stuff."

For kids like Oliver, who is on the autism spectrum, these opportunities are rare.

Jenny Hines is the board President for Camp Encourage.

"Many times, they don't have friends at school. This is a safe place. They're given the same opportunities that so many kids have to go to camp. It is very special just for them."

When 15-year-old Caleb Clark first came to camp a few years ago, he was terrified. He didn't have many friends, almost never tried anything new, and he had never spent the night away from family. Caleb's grandmother, Angie Morris, was also nervous.

"The first night I dropped off this scared camper and I was wondering if I would get multiple texts and emails."

But the calls never came, because something spectacular was transforming Caleb, something no therapist or doctor was able to accomplish.

According to Caleb, "It changed my life because I got to meet so much good people."

He even zip-lined! Morris was stunned.

"I picked this child up that I didn't really even know anymore. I get choked up because this Camp means everything to Caleb."

Families of children with autism will tell you, kids on the spectrum often struggle with social isolation, behavioral problems and an inability to communicate their feelings. At Camp Encourage, there is one counselor to every two campers. Positivity is taught. Trust is built. And there is a wide margin of love.

As a result, laughter swirls through the air at the campground. Kids that long to fit in revel in a normal experience. And changes occur that sometimes only come wit the opportunity to just go to camp.

Camp Encourage has sessions throughout the summer and fall. Scholarships are available.

For more information, go to www.CampEncourage.org