For neurotypical children, sometimes finances can be enough to keep them from experiences like summer camp. For those on the autistic spectrum, those opportunities are even more limited for more reasons. That's why Camp Odakoda exists, and why the annual It's My Ability 5K strives to keep the doors of the Oregon camp open.
"The mission (of the 5K) is to bring awareness to autism, and fundraise for Camp Odakoda," said Director of ASD Oregon and Camp Odakoda Misti Moxley. This year's event will kick off at the Boring Station Trailhead Park at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.
Moxley started the camp when her now 20-year-old son was 10, having known the need for a fun camp experience that accommodates children on the spectrum. At the camp, kids can do typical recreation like archery and boating.
"When you have a kid with a disability, everything cost more," Moxley noted. "We've really tried to keep the cost of the camp similar to (typical) camps."
So far, the 5K has helped raise money to fund an endowment so the camp can live on even after Moxley isn't around to manage it.
"We've never had to turn anyone away," Moxley said. "The importance of the camp is there aren't many programs for high-functioning children on the spectrum. At typical camps, the measure of success for those on the spectrum was if they weren't sent home."
At Camp Odakoda, the counselors strive for success to be determined by things like if they made a friend, or if they gained confidence, and "move away from the catch-all idea of autism."
"These kids never have a place structured around them and they're always trying to fit in," Moxley said. "At Camp Odakoda, we get to allow them to really flourish and not just 'be.' They're able to just be kids. We step into their world rather than (make) them always have to try to fit into ours. It's a place they can feel completely confident."
For participating in the seventh annual 5K walk or run, this year's racers will receive a bib, tech tee, finisher medal and mystery swag bag. Registration is open through the day of the event, and the race kicks off at 9 a.m. Registration is $40 for adults and $25 for children. Participants interested in registering as a team can receive a $5 discount per member. People can also "5K their way" by participating virtually for the same cost.
Registration is available online at runsignup.com/Race/OR/Boring/ItsMyAbility5KforAutism.
"It's always amazing to me to see how many people come out to support us (at the 5K)," Moxley said.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)