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At this camp for adults with disabilities, campers get another chance at prom

At this camp for adults with disabilities, campers get another chance at prom

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For 115 adults with disabilities, Camp Easterseals in Big Bear, California, is an opportunity do prom all over again.

"I have a dinner date with somebody in Boys Cabin 9," says Patti Francis, a 25-year-old camper from Corona, California.

She's also getting free makeover, thanks to CVS Health, which is one of the camp's corporate sponsors, right before the big dance.

Nobody sees your walker or your wheelchair. They see who you are.
Karen Elliott, Camper

"I like this makeup a lot because they're my two favorite colors a lot," she says about her vibrant red lipstick.

This is the 43rd year Easterseals has held a camp for people with disabilities in California. The campers comes from all over the state and range from 17 to 65 years old.

"Nobody sees your walker or your wheelchair. They see who you are," says Karen Elliott, a 25-year-old with cerebral palsy from San Diego, California.

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(Photo Credit: William Martinez)
Karen says this is where disabilities go to disappear. And sure enough, the campers are expected to participate in all the camp activities you could want, like fishing, and yes, even ziplining. They're assisted wherever they need the help by volunteers who come from all over the country.

"It's not camp light," says Dan Quinn, senior director of corporate relations for Easterseals Southern California. "It's camp. It may take 3 or 4 counselors to help them, but if they want to do it, they do it."

For another camper on her third year at Camp Easterseals, this camp symbolizes a lot.

"One of the things this camp taught me was learning to dance again," says Gina Burdge from Temecula, California.

Gina says she was the type to dance on tables in college before she got cancer, and she says the camp prom is what gave her the ability to dance again.

"Coming to camp, I was able to just let go and learn to dance in my power chair, and do power spins," said Gina. "And now when I go to weddings, I go to parties, I go in my power chair and dance. It really helped me find the real part of me, the fun part of me again."

The yearly week-long camp is made possible by Easterseals, a non-profit providing disability services, and corporate sponsors like Century21, Vons and CVS Health.

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"I was able to separate myself. I'm not my body. I'm me. And this camp really helped me find that," says Gina.

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