Specialized recreation programs available for all ages


FACES students play with a parachute in Zuanich Park in July, 2013.



    Whatcom County has compiled an extensive list of resources for families and individuals with special health needs. To view a copy (PDF) of the complete list, click here.

Whatcom County residents with physical or developmental disabilities have a wealth of options when it comes to finding fun recreational activities in the summertime.

A variety of nonprofit organizations, as well as the county and city parks and recreation departments, offer programs from classes that last a few hours at a time to overnight camps.

Many local programs for children ages 12 and younger are open to children of all abilities, while others are geared especially for those with special needs. It is a good idea for families to call a program that piques their interest and check on what types of accommodations may be available for their child.


For older children, typically mid-teens through adults, Bellingham offers several specialized classes and trips.

Recreation Coordinator Amanda Grove said the city does not offer programs specifically for youth with disabilities, but instead offers a variety of day camps and activities for young children that are open to those of all abilities.

"We work with families to provide assistance and/or accommodations for kids with disabilities in our summer camps," Grove wrote in an email. "We believe that working to make our programs inclusive is beneficial for all our campers."

To see a PDF of this summer's Leisure Guide, visit cob.org/services/recreation/activities/leisure-guide.aspx.

To arrange accommodations for your child, call Grove at 360-778-7000 or email her at agrove@cob.org.


Families for Autistic Children's Education and Support, known as F.A.C.E.S., was started in 1997 by a group of six families who wanted a summer program specifically designed for children with autism.

Sixteen years later, the program is still parent-run, and helps children with autism experience their community and grow socially and academically, F.A.C.E.S. Secretary Karlene Umbaugh wrote in an email.

Campers will spend mornings working on skills and academics, and afternoons out in the big world, Umbaugh wrote. Some of this summer's enriching activities will include things like horseback riding at Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center, overnight camping, visiting the Northwest Washington Fair, going to the YMCA, splashing around at the Birch Bay Water Slides and more.

Registration for the summer program is ongoing throughout the year. Families who are not able to attend the session this summer can still visit the program and get involved with fundraising, which can substantially reduce the cost of the program.

F.A.C.E.S. offers programming for four different groups for those 5 through 25 years old, with programming typically divided by age and therapy needs, Umbaugh wrote.

The cost varies depending on fundraising and eligibility for school and government resources, Umbaugh wrote.

Families should call F.A.C.E.S. at 360-389-2151 to get more information on the program and figure out pricing options.

More information is also available at facesnorthwest.com.


-- The Arc of Whatcom County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and increasing the independence and inclusion in the community of all persons with developmental disabilities.

The Arc's office at the Dan Godwin Community Center serves as a place for community members of all ages and abilities to share resources and participate in recreational and educational activities.

The center does not have a summer program, Parent Coalition Coordinator Monica Burke wrote in an email.

More information about The Arc can be found at arcwhatcom.org.

The Center for Children with Special Needs at Seattle Children's Hospital compiles a searchable, comprehensive list of summer camps offered throughout the state each year and posts it online.

That list can be found at this webpage.

-- The nonprofit Rebound of Whatcom County offers parenting classes and children's programs throughout the school year and summer.

Rebound offers a 7-week summer program, "Ray of Hope," for children ages 5 through 12 who have emotional, behavioral and/or economic challenges.

Registration for the summer program is usually completed by early June, but families can keep an eye on future programming at .


This overnight camp offers a series of week-long sessions for teens to seniors with a wide range of special needs conditions from mid-July through late August. Find more information at lionscamphorizon.org.

-- CAMP T.E.A.M.

This overnight camp for teens and adults with developmental disabilities is held each summer on Samish Island. Western Washington University's recreation department teams up with the Bellingham Parks and Recreation department to host Camp T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More). Registration forms usually need to be submitted by late April for the session. Find more information call Recreation Coordinator Amanda Grove of Bellingham Parks and Recreation at 360-778-7000.


This small Bellingham nonprofit provides daily activities for teens and adults with developmental disabilities who are at least 14 years old. Programming varies from cooking classes to art projects, karaoke to dance parties, to workouts and more. Information on the center can be found at maxhigbee.org.

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at Samantha.Wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com.

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