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That ‘a-ha’ moment: Summer for all at Teen Camp Woodlands

Tayler Tadrick is shouting, cheering on summer campers as they run between orange cones while straddling inflatable whales. Her face can’t contain her smile, and her arms become an extension of her joy, giving high-fives as the competitors wiggle their way to the finish line. “Just being around them, they really brighten my day,” says camp counselor Tadrick, 23, of Wexford, of the campers at Teen Camp Woodlands, a summer camp for teenagers with disabilities. The 32-acre fully accessible camp in Wexford allows people with a wide range of disabilities the full summer camp experience, with an adapted zip line and pool, campfires and an overnight in tents adapted with special lifts for those who need help getting up and down, adapted archery ranges and a variety of other activities and facilities. Tadrick’s time at the camp led her to realize she wanted to pursue a career that allows individuals with disabilities to play sports. “It’s just that ‘a-ha’ moment when they say they can’t and they do. It makes my heart melt.”

Camp counselor Heidi Smith, right, 23, of Ligonier, shouts to start the races as Jack Roberts, 14, of Sewickley, helps fellow camper Jake McClain, front, 21, of St. Mary’s, race with a blow-up whale at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford. “It’s a really life changing camp,” said Smith, who learned about the camp from two friends who came home raving about it after a summer working as counselors.
Camp counselor Allison Kuklar, 19, Uniontown, celebrates with camper Michael Miorelli, front, 22, Oakdale, as he crosses the finish line during a “Finding Dory” inspired race at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford.
Jasmine Adotey, center, 18, of Monroeville, pushes Amya Heidelberg, 17, of Penn Hills, to the next camp activity as camp counselor Shania Barnhart, 21, of Butler, follows close behind at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford.
Camper Sara Douds, 17, of Pittsburgh, plays a bean bag toss game at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford. The camp allows teens with disabilities to have a summer camp experience, complete with campfires and an overnight in tents specially equipped for campers with physical challenges.
Camp co-ordinator Becca Puzo, left, 21, of Indiana, reaches out for a high-five from camper Joy Mangiapane, 12, of Ellwood City, as she swings through the air on a zip line at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford. “Feels like flying,” is how Mangiapane described a ride on the zip line.
Campers Kali Alter, left, 19, of Saxonburg, and Joy Mangiapane, 12, of Ellwood City, play together at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford.
Former camper turned volunteer Max Colecchi, 24, of Freeport, checks on hotdogs roasting on the campfire at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford. “I used to be a camper but my roles have changed,” said Colecchi. “I think it gives me a different perspective.” Colecchi plays rugby with the Steelwheelers’ rugby team, which visits the camp to give a demonstration on sports played in a wheelchair.
Camper Madelyn Hoyland, 16, of Gibsonia, looks through a book of sing-along-songs by the campfire with camp counselor Victoria Keith during Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford.
Camper Amya Heidelberg, 17, of Penn Hills gives a hug to camp counselors Stephanie Swarthout, left, 19, of Ridgefield, Conn., and Shania Barnhart, center, 21, of Butler, as a day of activities comes to a close at Teen Camp Woodlands on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Wexford.