This research was designed to evaluate the implementation of six Camp Shriver programs and the impact of the program on Special Olympics athletes, volunteers, counselors and partners. In the summer of 2006, five new Camp Shriver sports camps were implemented throughout the Unites States, in addition to the camp run at the home of Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Maryland. These sites consisted of camps in Florida, Oregon, Louisiana, Missouri, and Massachusetts. Camp Shriver programming is designed to provide a normative, fun, camp-like experience for young people with intellectual disabilities, to enhance the sports skills of athletes/campers, and to provide an inclusive environment by also including partners (athletes without intellectual disabilities).
The Camp Shriver experience significantly boosted skills in multiple sports. Pre- and post-camp assessments placed athletes in four categories of proficiency in each sport. In almost all sports and all locations, post-camp assessments showed more athletes in the higher proficiency levels and fewer athletes in the lower levels. In some cases, the improvements were dramatic. At Camp Shriver Oregon, for example, pre-camp assessments placed more than 50% of campers in the lower two skill levels in basketball, but in post-camp evaluations, 79% were found to be in the highest two skill levels.
Findings indicate that Camp Shriver also fostered social inclusion for athletes with intellectual disabilities. By asking campers with and without intellectual disability to identify who they enjoyed playing sports with and who they considered a new friend, it was discovered that after participation in Camp Shriver, answers were not affected at all by disability status. Campers with and without intellectual disabilities were equally as likely to be considered fun to play with and identified as new friends.
Camp Shriver locations also provided volunteers and staff an opportunity to increase their awareness of intellectual disabilities, regardless of their previous level of exposure. Additionally, post-camp surveys showed staff and volunteers were interested in continuing their involvement with Camp Shriver.