The Woodland Centre Trust provides an activity centre, known as Camp Mohawk, for children and young people up to 25 years with special needs in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. These young people are affected by a variety of diagnosed conditions including Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC), Downs Syndrome, sight and/or hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, brain injury, genetic disorders and various other life-limiting inherited, acquired or medical conditions.
The charity supports around 500 families and 42 special needs schools, groups and centres. It is a much-loved service by children and their families and every family support session is oversubscribed by 50%. There is a suggested small membership donation for families but no compulsory charges.
The charity has recently benefited from a grant of £15,000 over three years from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
The camp, which is located just outside Wargrave, provides play sessions for families, open sessions in term time for children from local special needs schools, shared play sessions in the holidays for families and groups from special schools and short break after school clubs for children and young people with high functioning autism/Asperger’s syndrome.
Facilities at Camp Mohawk include adventure playgrounds, an outdoor hydrotherapy pool, a sensory garden, wildflower meadows, facilities for football, table tennis and archery and a campfire. Indoors there are light and dark sensory rooms, a ball pond, interactive music room, art room, ‘time out’ relaxing areas, dining area and fully accessible toilet, shower and changing facilities.
The lives of young people with special needs and their families have been particularly hard hit by the restrictions and frustrations of COVID 19 and the freedom and accessibility of Camp Mohawk has been even more of a lifeline to these families than usual over the last year. All outdoor areas remained open during the pandemic and family support sessions continued with reduced capacity to enable social distancing and some local special needs schools and support groups continued to attend weekly. Support groups and some sessions were moved online during the pandemic and these were well received.
Tina Jacobs the fundraising manager for the Charity said “The grant provided by the Freemasons will help enable Camp Mohawk to continue providing vital support to over 1,000 children and young people with special needs, their siblings and parents/carers. 99.1% of disabled children live at home, supported by their families, yet many families struggle to access support. Facilities where the whole family is welcome are very rare. Visits to the specially designed outdoor and indoor facilities at Camp Mohawk offer accessible adventures, provide space to relax and help build social skills and connections – all in a positive, inclusive, supportive environment. Visits may last an hour or a day but the benefits can last a lifetime.”