Annual Abbie Rogers Civitan Camp kicks off

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Rose Miller says coming to sleep away camp is the best part of her summer.

"I like the swimming and boating," said Miller.

Hattiesburg's annual Abbie Rogers Civitan Camp for mentally impaired adults has been running for 51 years and, for most of those years, there's been a wait list. One camper, Rob Mclean, says he's been coming to camp for 27 years.

This year there are about 100 campers staying the week, roughing it with no air conditioning, no family visits and - apparently - nothing but fun.

Most of the campers have been returning for this one week every summer for years and camp director Chris Potin likened the camp to a family vacation, and said the all-volunteer staff is no different.

"This is really one area that you can be yourself and not have to put on any airs at all. And they love you for yourself," said Daniel Chase, who's been volunteering at the camp for 33 years.

It's for the mentally impaired but you can hardly tell - the only thing that seems to make it different from any other summer camp is that every camper gets their own counselor on a sort of buddy system.

But other than that - the ups and downs and day-to-day are nothing special. This year a handicap accessible pontoon boat is the new attraction. It's a big deal because before, if you were in a wheelchair you'd often be stuck on the shore watching everyone else - and it's summer camp: No one wants to be left out.