Written by: Thea Calzoni - Julian's Mum.

At 30 years of age, my son Julian is a proof of the positive impact outdoor recreation can have on those living with a disability.

IMG: Volunteers on campJulian has an intellectual disability and is not good at talking. As a young child, he had a lot of challenges – like toileting, interacting and socialising with his peers and asking for what he wanted.

His life got better when he first went on camp with the specialist school he was attending. At the time, we had no idea how instrumental this first camp experience would be in unleashing Julian’s adventurous spirit!

Positive feedback from Julian’s teachers following his first school camp experience, encouraged me to contact People Outdoors. Julian attended his first People Outdoors camp in June 1998 and he has now been on more than 25 camps.

As a parent, I feel that it is only natural to feel nervous to send you child – with a disability or otherwise ‐ away on camp for the weekend or even overnight. However, I discovered that camp could give Julian opportunities and a sense of accomplishment that I could not. I’m glad he discovered the fun of camps when he was young enough to be open to adventure.

Camp provided Julian with an opportunity to extend himself mentally and physically in a well‐supported environment. It encouraged him to take risks and to socialise while his confidence continued to grow. 

The most pleasing aspect about Julian’s experience as a camper was learning that he really enjoyed being a helper.

Julian’s love for helping others was realised in 2011 when he began volunteering on children’s camps as a camp helper with People Outdoors. He has been on more than 35 camps as a helper to date.

Julian receiving award at 2016 Volunteer AwardsAs a camp helper, Julian provides support with other volunteers. His enthusiasm and rapport with the children he supports has been a joy to watch. One of Julian’s key responsibilities includes managing camp equipment where he takes great pride in ensuring that all the equipment is returned and stored neatly.

I was proud of Julian when I learnt that he was a finalist in the 2016 Disability Awards. His dad and I attended the award ceremony alongside Julian where he received a Highly Commended Award – a testament to just how far he has come.

When he is on camp, Julian is so empowered to be the best version of himself. As such, I am glad to have NDIS funded support for Julian to attend at least four camps a year to continue to strengthen his health, wellbeing and independence.