While other campers were playing wheelchair basketball inside, avoiding a rare rainy summer day on Lake Coeur d’Alene, 6-year-old Addison Benson ran around outside on her prosthetic legs.
For Benson, who lost both her legs in a lawn-mowing accident when she was 3, the four-day camp is a chance to be around other kids who, like her, have lost limbs.
“It’s something we look forward to,” said her mom, Andrea Benson.
Camp No Limits is a nonprofit organization that provides education, mentorship and support to young people with limb loss and their families.
Mary Leighton, an occupational therapist, founded the organization in Maine in 2004 after being inspired by a 2-year-old boy who was missing three limbs.
When Carrie Davis, a Spokane resident, attended the camp in Maine to demonstrate technology on behalf of her company, Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, she happened to sit next to the director of Camp Cross on her plane ride home and relayed her desire to bring Camp No Limits to Coeur d’Alene.
In 2006, Camp Cross became the second location for Camp No Limits in the nation. Now, Camp No Limits has nine locations throughout the country.
Children from all over the region come to Camp No Limits every summer. The Bensons came from Laurel, Montana. Andrea Benson said the camp provides “unspoken acceptance.”
Campers swim, fish, play basketball or do any number of other activities throughout the day, plus take part in exercise programs, life-skills training and team-building. Mentors who have also suffered from limb-loss are there to guide the kids.
Leighton said some children are told even by their medical doctors that they cannot participate in certain activities, but when they come to Camp No Limits they often find they can do more than they think.
“The biggest thing is knowing you’re not alone,” Leighton said.
This year, Camp Cross has almost been filled to its 110-person capacity, with 23 kids and their families enjoying the lake.
Camp Cross has 15 staff members on duty for Camp No Limits. Colin Haffner, camp director, described the experience as “pure joy.”
“It’s one of the most fun camps we can do,” Haffner said.
Davis, who was born without her left arm, said she wishes there had been a camp like it when she was a kid. She said she was always filled with anxiety when other people looked at her prosthetic arm, and going to other summer camps was stressful.
She said Camp No Limits should really be named “Camp Confidence.”
“These kids go back knowing they have a whole support system around them,” Davis said. “It’s just a place to be free.”
Ben Steinfeldt, another 6-year-old who lost his leg in a lawn-mowing accident, likes the feeling of not being looked at differently in his first year at the camp.
His father, Anthony Steinfeldt, said, “It’s good for him to connect with others and know he’s not the only one.”
As his dad was talking, one camper caught a fish on the dock and Ben darted toward the lake.
The adults yelled, “No running on the dock.”
Just like any other kid, there are always some limits.