Our son had an amazing experience last year in the summer, and can't wait for this year's fall camp. He had nothing bad to say about it, which is saying a lot! We're so happy he gets to have a real camp experience like other typical children.
My 16 year old daughter is a volunteer aid for ENN and our 12 year old son who has down syndrome has attended both summer and fall camps.
Both of our children love the experiences they've shared at camp. Great food, awesome activities and a completely safe environment for all involved (along with a well deserved break for parents for a few days).
Just amazing great work. Despite the difficulties with organizing camps of such magnitude they pull it through each and every year. We cannot benefit from these anymore but when we did it was a great experience for our daughter who remembers these till today!
My son was fortunate enough to attend one of their camps this past summer. It was a truly a wonderful experience for him and for us. ENN is full of wonderful staff and volunteers who care for the kids AND their families.
ENN runs a FABULOUS sleep-away camp for the intellectually disabled. My son is severely autistic and also has cerebral palsy. He has a cognitive age of about three years and has limited mobility. At Camp Arroyo, he was able to do things like ride a horse and a zipline(!), participate in dances, and swim. They have a nurse on staff and one-on-one counselors, so even those who are medically fragile can attend. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen.
I love ENN, it keeps us informed, gives our family opportunities for events, and keeps us updated, it also helps so many of us in our community of special needs to keep in touch.
Thank you so much ENN, you are a blessing.
ENN is by far the best source of information for parents of developmentally-disabled children (and adults) throughout the East Bay, and an ultra-efficient tool for connecting these parents with the appropriate providers of the myriad services their children might need. ENN is a warm and welcoming community of genuine care and respect.
ENN fills a gap in our area by providing support and opportunities, including camp, for our special needs children! We were with them for 15 years, until my son aged out. We miss them terribly.
Amazing group! They do so much for these exceptional kids. Very thankful for the adventures, friendships, and compassion they showed our daughter this weekend. Her words: the camp made me feel like I could be myself!
I've been with ENN at camp Arroyo since Laura Peters became director. I hang out with campers in Day break while counselors get their much needed breaks to simply sneak in a shower, a phone call home, or just to nap! It has been awesome working with ENN. It's an amazing group of people that really love and care about the needs of both the parents/families and the campers. Camp Arroyo is my "Happiest place on Earth."
I started volunteering in high school to fulfill community service hours. After my first time going to camp, I fell in love. For several years, I went back every fall to volunteer and work as a counselor. It's a truly amazing experience that allowed me to give back as well as learn and grow. The only reason I stopped going was because I am now an out of state college student.
I have been honored to be part of this wonderful organization over the last 15 years. As a counselor at ENN' s Camp Arroyo, I've enjoyed the privilege of seeing children growing from their first camp experience to mastering the camp experience. The staff is dedicated to caring for needs of each camper and giving them a memorable time. ENN is a well organized group our valley is fortunate to have serving families and children.
ENN is about as magical as you can get this north of actual Disneyland. I've been coming to camp since 2009 - first as an activity aide, then as a 1:1 counselor. Laura and the team do an amazing job of making camp the best experience for each individual. Little things like wheelchair accommodations for horseback riding, ooey goey time for sensory breaks and play, and GF/CF s'mores make a world of difference to our campers. There are no words to accurately portray camp; genuine love, laughter, and happiness exudes from each camper and counselor all session long. From the first summer I spent at camp, I knew it was a special place. But I never imagined how much it would shape who I am today, and I don't know what I'd do without the community that ENN has created for campers, counselors, and families alike.
7 years ago, when I was 19, a friend told me about ENN. I was looking for something to help fill up my summer off from college and maybe make a little extra cash. I figured it'd be a one time thing. Little did I know I would fall in love with this organization, the people who run it, the counselors that live for it, and the campers who make it all worth it. There is an indescribable bond with the individuals involved with ENN. We are one big, happy, loving family. We are all there for the same reason: to see the campers' face light up when they get to the top of the rock wall, or ride a horse for the first time, or perform at the talent show in front of an eager audience. I can't count how many times I've teared up because of the beautiful individuals associated with this organization. The amount of love I've given and received through ENN is priceless. I'm so happy ENN became a part of my life and always will be.
ENN is an amazing non profit that benefits SO many! The smiles and the happiness that reflect from the campers' & volunteers faces is infectious. One cannot be at ENN without having a wonderful feeling come over them - it's a place where all the kids are the same, no one is different. Years ago, our eldest daughter began as an activity aide at ENN, working various stations, years later, she is now a counselor and takes personal time off of her full time job to return to camp. She has also got both of her brothers and numerous friends through the years to volunteer. So now, all three of our kids work at ENN, we actually plan family vacations around camp - that's how important it is to our 23, 20 & 17 year old!! ENN is not only a memorable experience for the campers, but for the volunteers and workers as well. ENN holds a special place in our hearts ❤️❤️.
ENN is Passionate about serving families with special needs children by providing a unique camping experience for the children and a break in caregiving for the family.
I traveled from NJ to have the chance to work at ENN's summer respite camp in 2013. It was an amazing experience for the campers to be themselves while having new experiences in a safe environment. I also personally found it to be an amazing experience and was equally disappointed for camp to end! It was a pleasure to see the joy on all of the campers faces while they got to go swimming and horseback riding, play in foam pits and bounce castles, sit around camp fires while eating smores among other things. ENN really offers something to everyone regardless of ability. All children should be as lucky to attend ENN's camp!
My 21 year old daughter has been a client of ENN/Camp Arroyo since she was 8 years old. Since the beginning she has always looked forward to her yearly weekend at camp. We have always had the BEST experiences with ENN and will be sad to leave when my daughter turns 22 as there is no other beautiful camp quite like it.
We would like to thank all the volunteers and staff for their MANY hours of love and dedication that they have shown over last two decades caring for all our special kids.
ENN provides a wonderful 3 night camping experience to children ages 6-22. What I love most is seeing the relationships that develop and the life long friendships that form. The smiles on the campers face as they see their friends at camp is priceless.
“I really, really don’t want to do this.”
I was fifteen years old in early August, 2007. My parents were upfront in our Toyota Highlander, I was sitting in the back. We were driving past Sycamore Grove Park in beautiful Livermore California, on our way to drop me off at Camp Arroyo, home of the Exceptional Needs Network(ENN). The day couldn’t have been anymore tranquil, yet I was having a full-fledged panic attack.
“I don’t want to hear another negative word out of your mouth,” my Dad said, without even turning his neck. His word is bond, so I decided to shut up and not test it any further. That doesn’t mean I was happy about my current situation.
My parents saw an ad in the paper about volunteer work for high school students at a camp for kids/young adults with special needs. Since I wasn’t doing anything that summer but play basketball during the day, and video games at night, they figured it would be good for me.
“This is an opportunity for you to grow and learn,” my Mom said. “Besides, knowing you, you will probably fall in love with it.”
Growth? Learning? Love? I’m an unemployed kid going into his sophomore year, I’m pretty confident I have the entire world figured out. Some dumb camp that is taking up a week of my precious summer isn’t going to change anything.
We drove up the cool, shaded hill that turns into the camp grounds; my heart was beating like a boxer playing with a speed bag. We parked in the lot, my parents started to get out of the car when I told them I have it from here, they didn’t need to walk me in.
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to run away,” my Dad joked. I told them I’m sure, and that I’ll see them tonight. It wasn’t like it was going to be a long time until I saw them again. Camp is a week long; staff, counselors, and campers stay on the grounds the entire time. Since I was just a volunteer, I was allowed to go home at night. At the time the less I had to be there, the better.
I watched my parents drive away as I slowly made my way towards the dining hall. If I was going to make a break for it now was my chance. Alas, with only ten bucks to my name I realized I wasn’t going to make it far. I succumbed to fate, and head towards the sounds of cheerful voices; Andy Dufresne I was not.
I approached a table where counselors and other volunteers were checking in. I gave my name and was rewarded with a T-shirt with the ENN logo. I walked out on the extended patio of the dining hall and looked around. Below me was a patch of grass with a bounce house. Under that was a pool boarded by cool grass, encompassed by an overhang for shade. I turned around and went to check out the dining hall. Free food and drink was abundant, as were people enjoying the refreshments. I ran through the checklist in my head: free clothes, bounce house, pool, free food. This might not be as bad as I thought.
A woman named Laura approached me and struck a conversation. We had met one time before, in an interview for the volunteer position. I thought it was messed up that I had to interview for something I didn’t even want. Laura is the camp coordinator, the captain, our benevolent leader. Even though there are many people that pull the strings to make camp dance; she is the one spinning on the ballroom floor. She has a million things to do at all times, but somehow has an uncanny ability to make you feel at ease. After a two minute conversation my nerves were gone.
We had a large meeting with everyone involved. The rules, guidelines, and individual roles were discussed. As a volunteer it was not my responsibility to look after a camper, that was reserved for the counselors. My job was to set up activities, bring food out, clean up, interact with the campers, etc. I realized quickly it was grunt work. The volunteers are the grease that keeps the cog moving. Since a camper’s well being was not in my hands, it was a position I was glad to play.
The campers began to arrive in the midafternoon. Some wore the expression I did when I rode into camp; scared they had to say goodbye to their parents and their safe little world. Others looked like college freshmen moving into their first dorm, barely saying, “see ya later” before bounding towards an activity looking to cut loose. By this time I had already connected with a few of the other volunteers and counselors. Based on how extroverted some of the campers were, I decided it was time to expand my social circle.
I went down to the lawn area where many campers and counselors had gathered. I started playing catch with a camper. Then soccer. Then tag. The more they smiled, the more I did. All my previous inclinations were out the window, just like that I was hooked. I noticed several campers in the bounce house, so I stormed that sucker like it was Normandy. We jumped and laughed for who knows how long, I might still be in there if I hadn’t heard a counselor say it’s almost dinner time. I almost forgot I had other responsibilities, this is a common theme at ENN.
I raced to the dining hall just in time to help set up dinner; the other volunteers weren’t sure why I was sweating so much. Halfway through dinner Laura tapped me on the shoulder. She explained that a group of pirates were coming and that they needed someone to kidnap. I told her that I appreciated her thinking of me to be the human sacrifice, and that I would do it.
After dessert five pirates barged into the dining hall. They told their audience they were looking for someone who stole their treasure. I stood up and told them they were ugly, they promptly ran over and tied me up with rope. My reservations of camp had now turned into performance art. They announced to the rest of camp that they were taking me outside, and that everyone should follow. I was marched to the lawn with what was hopefully a fake sword held behind my back. The pirates had a couple fake cannons already set up, along with a smorgasbord of other pirate paraphernalia. Pirate hats and blow up swords were passed around, they even were nice enough to let me loose so I could play with the campers.
After the pirates set sail it was time to wind down, the camp head back to the dining hall for popcorn and a movie. Before I knew it, it was time for bed, and time for me to head home for the night.
As my mom pulled up to take me home Laura asked if I was coming back the next day. I promised her I would. This is a promise I have not broken for the past nine years. I became a counselor when I turned eighteen, and I’ve made it to 27 straight camps, I even spend the night now. Going into my first time at ENN I was counting down the days until it was over, now I count the days until the next camp. When June approaches I angst to mark out the next two months on my calendar, in a false hope that it would somehow speed up the ticking clock. A positive reformation of a hunch my parents had almost a decade ago. If you know of a place that you think is better than the Exceptional Needs Network at Camp Arroyo, point it out, because I’m not going to believe you until I see it.
“How was it?” my Mom asked as I got in the car.
“It was pretty good,” I said, trying to conceal my smile, at the time I couldn’t let her win. However, now I acknowledge that my parents forcing me to do camp was the best thing they ever did for me. How is that for Growth, Learning, and Love?
I worked for ENN from ages 12-22 and loved every moment of it. The children and young adults served give you such a great understanding on life and remind you that everything is going to be ok. I'm so blessed to have been involved for so long.
I started working with ENN when I was 12 as a volunteer, and continued until I was in my early twenties. The experience working with Exceptional Needs Network was a life changing one.
The most kind and gentle staff, and the most amazing campers - I've made friendships with coworker's and campers alike that have lasted well after my years working here are done.
Review from Guidestar
I had heard about ENN about 6 years ago, when my daughter was 9 years old. She is moderate functiong on the spectrum. After all the positive comments, I was still weary about sending her anywhere overnight. I took the leap the next year, and it was the best experience she'd had. The activities that were offered there were great, especially the zip line. She wanted to continue going on it. All the counselors she's had over the years have been wonderful! They met all my expectations and then some, by being attentive, friendly, caring and always engaging her in conversation. Camp Arroyo is a beautiful and fun place and my daughter always looks forward to going. Thank you ENN for all you do for our kids!
Review from Guidestar
We moved to the Bay area in 2011 and I stumbled on ENN and the resource they offer to children with special needs. We have a 14 year old son who has autism. We learned about Camp Arroyo, which is a camp geared for kids with special needs. My son loves going here every summer. They have tons of activities such as zip lining, horseback riding, swimming, arts and crafts, etc. We look forward to this every single year and we cannot thank ENN for this wonderful service. We are blessed to be a part of ENN.
Review from Guidestar
My son has been going to Camp Arroyo through ENN for several years and he loves it! The staff at ENN are the absolute best and they make sure each and every camper feels special and important. I can't say enough wonderful things about ENN - they have made my son's camping experience every year spectacular!
Review from Guidestar
Getting in contact with ENN has changed our lives, starting with Camp Arroyo. When you have a child with special needs, certain things just never even cross your mind. At the top of that list is summer camp- meaning 4 days away from your child, day and night, entrusting a group of people you've never met to care for every one of his needs. I'm smiling even thinking of it now. It was so far out of our realm of thinking that even after we signed him up we debated whether or not to go through with it. Then we found out that he would have not just someone by his side day and night, but the same person the entire time. Someone who read through the 4 pages of questions and comments we filled out who understood all of his needs, moods and behaviors. As it turned out, the camp felt the person he was originally assigned to wasn't the right fit and re-assigned him immediately to a better fit. She called us to let us know he was having fun so we were completely at ease. When we dropped him off we saw a wide spectrum of disabilities and volunteers willing and ABLE to care for these special kiddos. We cried tears of joy when we left there because we knew it was an important step toward our son's recovery and we knew he'd be well taken care of. Since camp, we have received a number of e-mails to connect parents of special kids with the resources they need, along with other awesome activities and events for our children to do.. It has been a true blessing. These folks are doing an amazing thing and they're doing it VERY well.
Review from Guidestar
5/5 is not enough.
I'm finishing my 5th year working with ENN. Two as an activity aid and then 3 as a counselor. I count down the days between camps, and wait to get the emails to be up at camp. I take work off and do everything in my power to be there. This camp, these kids give a whole new meaning to my life. They are my motivation to get where I'm moving. I would do anything for this camp!
Review from Guidestar
ENN's provision of Camp Arroyo allowed my son to have experiences that would have been denied to him anywhere else. Just one example is that no other facility would have allowed a profoundly physically and mentally disabled person to ride a zip line! They have medical professionals on staff to oversee any daily care that is necessary. Every attendee is treated with dignity and respect. The staff and counselors are uniformly friendly and caring. And I have to give a particularly special shout out to Laura Peters, who runs the camp with incredible organization and smoothness. There's never a bump in the road with her at the helm!
Review from Guidestar
Five stars is just not enough, I don't think a thousand stars is even enough. This organization and camp changes lives, brings joy, exudes love, and gives so many children something to look forward to every Summer and Fall. My son has attended the camp for 10 years now and cry's when he has to leave. Thank you ENN for the joy you bring to our family and especially our son.
Review from Guidestar
It's not every day that you find a non profit organization with such a strong following that parents literally line up in the wee hours of the morning to ensure their child has a space at camp. ENN has become 'the' go-to camp for individuals with special needs in the East Bay area of San Francisco. Their free camping experience, which provides dedicated parents with needed weekend respite, has developed into a club of campers, alumni, staff, volunteers and parents who could not imagine life without this organization. Low overhead, direct donor to program funding and the chance to experience summer camp as it should be (regardless of your disability or situation) is what sets them apart. They deserve your strong support.
Review from Guidestar
ENN is a very positive and productive organization. Their camps have been truly wonderful and are in great demand. As a client I have new had a better experience, and being local I feel part of the family. I just wish they served an older population as well as their own target group.
Review from Guidestar
I have worked and volunteered with ENN for over 11 years at camp Arroyo and I love it more than anything! It is so great to be able to give hard working parents a break! Many of our staff are special education teachers and aids and we are able to let the parents take a vacation without worrying and let their kids have camp fun they may not be able to fully experience at a typical camp. Our kids are cared for on a 1:1 ratio but we all become friends and everyone will know your name by the end of the session, and I have made many friendships that extend beyond camp. I can't wait to continue to work with my exceptional family :)
Review from Guidestar