People Always Responding with Compassion
Camp PARC provides a residential summer camp program and year-round recreational and social activities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their neurotypical peers. These opportunities encourage fun, social interaction, and friendship among its participants, all while creating valuable respite for parents and caregivers.
Camp PARC has been serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and providing an opportunity for individuals and groups to volunteer since 1960. Camp PARC is funded through camper tuition and generous donations by individuals, businesses and foundations.
Camp PARC’s mission is to create meaningful and binding experiences between individuals with special needs and the volunteer staff that devotes their time and energy to serve them.
Camp PARC is organized around four key arcs, that when put together, help create an unending circle of friendship and love.
Camp PARC’s first arc is the children, teens, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Camp PARC’s second arc are the youth staff. The youth who serve at Camp PARC give a week of their summer in complete selfless service. The life lessons and perspectives they will gain during this time of service is unlike anything they will ever experience.
Camper Families and Caregivers
The second arc is the families and caregivers of our campers. The days when their family member is at Camp PARC may be the only days of respite the families receive the entire year. Camp PARC is a place where family members can be assured that their child, brother, or sister is well cared for. This sense of comfort allow parents and caregivers the opportunity to take some time for well-deserved rest and relaxation.
The final arc that completes that circle is Community Volunteers. Camp PARC promotes community involvement by encouraging participation of various community groups and organizations to volunteer on during the camp sessions and throughout the year at various activities and events.
Meet the Directors
Camp Directors, Judy and Ted Risch began their volunteer service at Camp PARC as junior-high school students in 1966.
Uncle Ted and Aunt Judy know every aspect of camp operations from first-hand experience. Having been involved since the early years of Camp PARC’s existence, they continue to share their love of the special campers with the young people who serve as counselors. Together they strive to create a special “family” environment that is truly unique.
Serving as directors since 1980, Uncle Ted and Aunt Judy oversee every detail of the camp operation and strive to make this week an unsurpassed camp experience for both the campers and the volunteer staff who come to serve them.
Together this couple has always enjoyed sharing the Camp PARC experience with not only their students, but with their family as well. Today, their children and their grandchildren enjoy serving together at Camp PARC. The couple takes pride in what they have achieved during their summer vacations…a premier family-oriented summer camp experience for the mentally disabled community, filled with lots of friendship and love.
In 2015, the Risches celebrated their 50th year of volunteer service to Camp PARC. A pavilion is being built at Laurel Hill State Park in their honor. Contributions, in honor of Ted and Judy towards the pavilion, can be made through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to the Camp PARC Forever Friends Fund or online.
Due to CoVid-19 delays, the pavilion is now slated to be constructed in the spring of 2021.
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.
Laurel Hill State Park
Camp PARC holds its summer camping program at Laurel Hill State Park Group Camp #8.
For more information about Laurel Hill State Park, please visit: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/laurelhill/index.htm