Kamp Dovetail: Lifeline for campers


By Jacob Clary - jclary@aimmediamidwest.com



KAMP Dovetail, an annual camping event for children with special needs, started Monday and ends Thursday this week.

Executive director Linda Allen said the first activity begins at 9 a.m. each day and they run until 5 p.m. She said some of the events include boating, fishing, a bounce house, badminton, putt-putt, water games, dancing and a Wiffle Ball tournament. She said the events are switched around every 45 minutes.

In terms of the Wiffle Ball tournament, Allen said the campers are not competing against one another, but competing to tally 100 runs over the whole week, which they surpassed early Tuesday morning.

She said the highlight of the week will come Thursday at 11 a.m. when the 1968 World Series champion John Warden will be present to pitch to the campers alongside former Detroit Tigers pitchers and Whiteoak High School graduate Kip Young.

Allen said each year there is a theme for the camp and this year’s theme is the KAMP Dovetail All-Stars, with the camp focused on creating a baseball atmosphere. Allen said the organization built its own backstop and scoreboard, rented bleachers, has the Wiffle Ball games take place on a diamond and even has popcorn and Cracker Jacks.

Allen said Thursday will include horse-drawn wagon rides and a pizza party where all the campers will receive a medal for surpassing the 100-run goal. She said the event will end that night at 10 p.m. with a fireworks display.

Allen said that usually there would be evening activities like an auction and a carnival, but because of COVID-19 activities are ending at 5 p.m. and activities held after that in previous years are not taking place this year.

Allen said she has been working with the camp for more than 30 years and that it has grown exponentially since then. When she started there were about 75 total volunteers and campers, and that has grown to 700 in a “normal” week. However, that because of COVID-19, the camp has half as many people present, at about 300, with around125 of them being campers.

She said Dovetail was started by people that wanted more activities for children with disabilities, and that all campers have a one-on-one buddy. None of the volunteers are paid to be there during the week “which makes them even more special because they’re here because they genuinely want to make a difference, not because they’re paid camp counselors. Their heart is in it,” Allen said.

This would have been the 40th anniversary of the start of the camp, but due to COVID-19 it was not held a year ago and the 40th anniversary will be celebrated next year when past campers and dignitaries return to celebrate the occasion.

She said that it’s “an honor” to be the director for the event, that it’s almost as if God has a plan for everyone’s life, and her mission is to be at KAMP Dovetail.

“It’s great, but it’s also difficult because when you’ve been here this long, a lot of the kids are terminal or a lot of the kids don’t have the life expectancy of a normal child and this year we lost three or our kids already… It’s hard because I get attached to them. You watch them for all these years… I am so thrilled that I am a part of it,” she said.” It’s hard to explain.”

For some of the campers, Allen said KAMP Dovetail is the only thing they have to look forward to. She said last year when the camp was canceled because of COVID-19, she wanted to reach out to them in some way. The way she did was by having three days where people were stationed at the camp at different time slots and they gave each of the people that came a T-shirt.

“But this whole year, after that, they worried there wasn’t going to be a camp and there are parents that have literally had the kids call me up and talk to me on the phone,” Allen said. “There are kids that called me up and said that the T-shirt meant so much because they know there’s going to be a camp and they know we love them and we care about them and there’s going to be a camp this year. “

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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By Jacob Clary

jclary@aimmediamidwest.com