By Dave Ongie, News Editor
As a pediatric physical therapist assistant at Mini Miracles Pediatric Therapy, Heather Runion spends her days working tirelessly to help children with special needs enjoy a better quality of life.
Her efforts lead to progress, but physical therapy can be a tedious process for her young patients. So when Runion has the opportunity each summer to see some of her patients getting the opportunity to make friends and have some fun at the Imagine Camps run by Mini Miracles, it is incredibly rewarding.
“That’s huge for us to be able to see kids in a large setting and to be able to carryover skills that we’ve been working on with him during the school year,” Runion said following the final Imagination Camp session of the summer.
Mini Miracles Ministries, an offshoot of Mini Miricales Pediatric Therapy, started offering one-day summer camps for children with special needs back in 2015. Five years in, Imagine Camps are taking place in both Johnson City and Abingdon. The camp has grown each year and served approximately 70 young people this summer from toddlers through teens.
Runion is among a group of coordinators responsible for planning, coordinating and running five weeks worth of camps each summer. She credited Kelli Scott – who started the physical therapy business – for the idea of offering a fun, safe camp experience to their clients.
“She wanted something for kids with special needs to be able to be involved in, kind of like their typical peers, and to be able to do it in a safe environment where therapists are working the camp.”
The process of planning activities for the camp has evolved over the years, but Runion said the weekly themes are selected to include things their clients are interested in. This year’s themes included superheroes, Star Wars and animals. The addition of martial arts was a big hit this year as well.
“The kids really enjoyed that,” Runion noted. “We change things each summer. It’s been a huge learning experience each year.”
For families who have children enrolled in ongoing therapy programs, the cost of that therapy can be steep. With that being said, Runion is hopeful that Imagine Camp will one day be able to offer partial or full scholarships for campers who attend.
“It’s so hard for them to pay extra money for summer camp, and where it is led by therapists, it is a little bit more expensive in that sense,” Runion said. “And so we’re really hopeful that as we continue to grow, we’ll be able to offer it at a discounted rate or even, ideally, for free.”
For information on how you can donate money to aid the mission of Imagine Camp, visit give.cmfi.org/p-23066-mini-miracles-ministries.aspx. For more information on the camp, visit www.minimiraclespllc.com/imagine.html.