Camp PARC was founded in 1960 by parents of a mentally handicapped child. Their vision was to create a recreational summer program for mentally challenged individuals that was similar to summer camping programs offered to their son’s typically developing peers. Camp PARC under the direction of Reverend Richard McDaniel and operated by Somerset Chapter of the Arc was held at Laurel Hill State Park. In its first year Camp PARC welcomed 15 campers.
In 1964 Reverend Robert Callihan, became Camp Director and continued in that capacity for 15 years. Under Callihan’s directorship, he introduced traditional camping activities to the campers such as swimming in a lake, s’mores, sack races, tug of war, and the hobo hike, an activity w*here campers and counselors hiked in to the woods, setup camp and prepared their entire meal over an open fire. During Rev. Callihan’s years as director Camp PARC began to grow in size and in service to others.
Theodore and Judy Risch were named Camp Directors in 1980, after being active Junior Counselors since the late 1960s. The couple remains in that position today. The Risches organized the program around an annual theme and created the family environment Camp PARC is known for. They introduced the Big Night Program, where the public is invited to camp to see campers and counselors perform a show all created around the annual theme.
In 2007 Camp PARC dissolved its association with The Arc and officially incorporated as its own entity. Camp PARC (People Always Responding with Compassion) is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. One unwavering hallmark of the program unchanged since 1960 is the emphasis on friendship. The summer camping program is often a life-changing experience for campers and staff, providing uplifting and memorable experiences and more importantly creating friendships surpassing the norms of society and time. At Camp PARC we are Forever Friends.