IN THE COM­MU­NITY

Trail­ways Camp

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY CRAIG GAR­RETT

The ques­tion still surprises Sharon and Jerry Miller. The Sani­bel cou­ple hosts camp out­ings, birthdays and other cel­e­bra­tions for those with dis­abil­i­ties. One of their sons, Robert, died from a rare health dis­or­der; an­other son, Ben, lives on Sani­bel un­der care­giver su­per­vi­sion. A dis­abled per­son at the Millers' Trail­ways Camp in­evitably won­ders when’s the next event, Jerry Miller says, which is sur­pris­ing, as many ask­ing are acutely dis­abled. “The joy of campers,” he says, “is hard to ex­plain. [You] just have to see it to be­lieve it.”

The Millers be­gan spe­cial-needs camps fol­low­ing Robert’s death in 2005. They es­tab­lished the Robert V. and Ben­jamin G. Miller Fund to fi­nance camps and the “I Am Spe­cial” cel­e­bra­tion, which honors fund spon­sors, vol­un­teers and campers. The event co­in­cides with Ben Miller’s birthday and is in April at the Sani­bel

THE MILLERS EX­PECT 20 OR SO CAMPERS, VOL­UN­TEERS AND HEALTH EX­PERTS. FUN AC­TIV­I­TIES IN­CLUDE ARCHERY, IN­TRO­DUC­TIONS TO WILDLIFE, FISH­ING AND HIK­ING AND EVENING CAMP­FIRES.

Com­mu­nity House. Good­will In­dus­tries of South­west Florida is a part­ner in the pro­gram.

The next Trail­ways Camp is Sept. 21-24 in Alva, in cen­tral Florida. The Millers ex­pect 20 or so campers, vol­un­teers and health ex­perts. Fun ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude archery, in­tro­duc­tions to wildlife, fish­ing and hik­ing and evening camp­fires. It is a rare chance to en­joy be­ing out­side un­der the warm sun, Sharon Miller says of dis­abled campers such as her son. “There have been days when I have to pick my­self up,” she says of par­ent­ing dis­abled chil­dren. “But the Lord has brought us so many rich bless­ings.”

Jerry Miller says the River­side Re­treat in Alva where camps are staged has a new hand­i­cap walk­way to the Caloosa­hatchee River, giv­ing more ac­cess. Sani­bel vol­un­teers helped fund and build the switch­back ramp, he says. Miller ad­vises those with spe­cial-needs kids to sup­port them. “Let go as a par­ent,” he says. “Ev­ery in­di­vid­ual has gifts and tal­ents.”

THE JOY OF CAMPERS IS HARD TO EX­PLAIN. [YOU] JUST HAVE TO SEE IT TO BE­LIEVE IT.”

—JERRY MILLER

De­tails are at trail­wayscamps.org.

Craig Gar­rett is Group Ed­i­tor-in-Chief for TOTI Me­dia.

River trips, camp­fires and archery are part of the fun at Trail­ways Camp in Alva. And noth­ing makes mem­o­ries like a group photo (be­low).

Trail­ways Camp founders Sharon Miller (left) and Jerry Miller (right) work with their grand­daugh­ter, Ella Be­un­ing (cen­ter left), and her mother, Kristina, in bring­ing joy to those with spe­cial needs.

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