Thomas Bass first got involved with Camp Big Heart when he was 15 years old.

“I got involved through one of my best friends. He asked if I wanted to go on a free vacation with him for a week. He conveniently left off that I wasgoing to be a counselor at a special needs camp, but it ended up being a lot of fun.”

It was Bass’ first real interaction with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but it would not be his last. Over the last 15 years, Bass has continued to be involved with Camp Big Heart in a variety of ways including holding club offices, working as a counselor, and serving on the board. Camp Big Heart opened its doors in 1984, and officially chartered as a Civitan club in 2003.

Camp Big Heart is one of a kind. Every June, CBH provides two weeks of camp for youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Located in Georgia, they are one of the only camps in the southeast to provide this type of experience for adults with disabilities.

When the pandemic shut everything down last year, the fate of summer camp seemed bleak, but the staff and board of CBH were ready to jump into action.

“One bright side is that over the last couple of years, our board has been focusing on technology… so there wasn’t a large learning curve. With everything that happened, what we were able to do iscreate a virtual camp for our campers.” The CBH team worked together to create a YouTube video that allowed campers to take part in many of the traditional CBH activities the flag pole routines, arts and crafts, and more.

“Having the staff being able to say hi, we miss you, we hope to see you next year… just having that interaction was huge for us.” Many of the campers and staff at CBH are regulars, returning year after year for the camp experience.