Growing up disabled impacts the entire family. While seven families gathered this past weekend at Bay Cliff Health Camp, children with disabilities, their siblings and their parents were all able to take home a new experience.
Eight-year-old Caleb Waterman from Negaunee was born with Joubert's Syndrome. He has difficulties with large and fine motor skills.
Caleb spent the weekend at Bay Cliff Health Camp with other kids facing the same disabilities. His family was right there with him, including his 11-year-old brother, Jason.
"It's important that we came up here just to experience it as a family," said Jason. "We want Caleb to try and catch up with other kids. We just want to make him the best that he can be."
The twenty kids at the camp this weekend, those with special needs and their siblings, spent time doing arts, crafts and planning a skit. It was a chance for Jason to meet other kids who have brothers and sisters facing similar challenges.
"I didn't really know that that many families out in other places were dealing with the same situation," he said.
The sibling involvement was a big reason that the Waterman family attended the special weekend.
"I think sometimes the siblings kind of get ignored because we, as parents, focus so much of our energy on the child with the special needs that sometimes they kind of get pushed aside," said Dan Waterman, Jason and Caleb's dad.
While the kids were spending time with Bay Cliff volunteer staff members, their parents were having a group discussion with volunteer camp doctor, Mike Nidiffer.
"Trade ideas, talk about treatments that have been successful for them and what's worked for us, and we're going to walk out of here with some new doctors to possibly check out and some new therapies or ideas that we need to look into," Dan said.
It was the Waterman family's first time at the camp in Big Bay. They had heard a lot of good things about it from staff at Caleb's school.
"The facility is tremendous, and it's very encouraging to be around the volunteers and the energy they have and the compassion they have," Dan said. "It's just a really nice setup and a wonderful place."
After this weekend, the Waterman family is strongly considering sending Caleb to Bay Cliff this summer. And now, everyone returns home with new ideas on how to approach his disability.
"He's just different in some ways, it doesn't mean that he's from another planet or anything," Jason said about his brother. "He's human, he was born on this planet, and he just can't do some other things that most kids would do."