Portland State Magazine Fall 2022

FALL 2022 // 29 For 50 years, PSU students have been making summer camp a reality for those with developmental disabilities— and taking away lifelong lessons on what it means to be present. by Jack Heffernan Photos by Edis Jurcys LIFE CAMP Every summer, Allan Cushing looks forward to receiving a specific instruction from an unmistakable voice. Years ago, while working as a counselor at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, a summer program for people with developmental disabilities, Cushing bonded with a camper, Dave, who has a penchant for Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions. The moment Dave arrived at camp, Cushing knew he would hear, “Put that cookie down, now!” a line from Schwarzenegger’s 1996 movie “Jingle All the Way.” “It just brings a smile to my face, and I can’t help but always run up to him and give him a big hug and remember all of the fun we’ve had together,” said Cushing, now operations director for the camp. For one week each summer, campers of all ages spend time at the 22-acre nonprofit camp in Mt. Hood National Forest swimming, hiking, riding horses, fishing, climbing, ziplining, canoeing, singing, and more. Lack of accessibility makes experiences like LEFT: A Mt . Hood Kiwanis camper rides a horse with the help of camp staff. RIGHT: Camper “Captain” Matthew Stone performs Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” during a karaoke session in July. these less common for people with disabilities, even at large amusement parks. “We like to say that this is like their Disneyland,” Cushing said. But like Disneyland, it’s an experience that takes many hands to pull off—a challenge thousands of PSU students have stepped up to over the years.