Camp Koinonia is an outdoor education program that strived to serve approximately 100 campers each year whos ages 7-21 who have multiple disabilities. The program was developed in 1977 at Virginia Tech as part of a class with the primary purpose of providing a meaningful, experiential learning opportunity for university students while involving children and young adults, some with severe disabilities, in outdoor activities that they would not be able to do otherwise. A class of about 200 UT students attends a three-hour class every Thursday in preparation for their week at camp. During the first year of the program, a counselor/camper duo submitted the winning name for the program – Camp Koinonia. Koinonia (“kwan-a-nee-yah”) comes from the Greek and means “fellowship” and “caring community.” Since that time the purpose and mission of Camp Koinonia has been to provide a “caring community” for our campers in a sense of true “fellowship.” It is also said of Camp Koinonia that this is “an experience that will last a lifetime,” which has proven true for hundreds of individuals over the years.
Camp Koinonia 2023 Dates:
April 16th – April 21st
1. To provide each camper with an educational and fun oriented experience in an outdoor environment.
2. To provide an educational experience for each university student involved in the program.
3. To provide an enriching, rewarding experience to foster the emotional, social, and physical well-being of each camper.
4. To emphasize appropriate socialization in terms of playing and working together.
5. To emphasize what the camper can do rather than what he/she cannot do.
6. Provide programs that are within the range of abilities of each camper.
The program is offered through the Therapeutic Recreation program that is housed in our department. College students from a variety of academic programs participate in the course, especially in Therapeutic Recreation, Special Education, Child and Family Studies, and Psychology. This 14 week course is devoted to facilitating the students’ understanding of working with children with disabilities before actually conducting the week long Camp Koinonia experience.
The campers at Camp Koinonia come from a variety of special education programs and schools across the state of Tennessee, most coming from Knox, Blount, and Anderson counties. The age ranges from 7-21 and the program is primarily geared toward those who do not normally have the opportunity to attend these types of programs. Disabilities include Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability, and others.
Programmed activities include horseback riding, canoeing, arts and crafts, sports and games, low ropes course, music and movement, made science, cooking, outdoor adventure and archery, exercise and yoga, cabin challenge, and come on down (a game show-style/trivia-based activity). Special events include camp fire, socials, game nights, movie night, talent show, and everyone’s favorite, the dance! Each activity is developed and implemented by 2-3 UT students who plan the daily activity. The activity staff raises funds in order to get enough money and materials to put on their activity.
The Clyde M. York, 4-H Training Center is an accessible facility located in Crossville, TN. Cabins include bunk beds, showers, and restroom facilities.
The campers and staff will have three hot, well balanced meals daily by the 4-H Center’s cooking staff. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the dining hall where tables are separated by cabin groups. Cheering and games are played in order to choose the order in which cabin groups are chosen to get their food. Please notify us of any food allergies or dietary restrictions your camper has. Unfortunately, 4-H is not always able to accommodate for all food allergies. Please be prepared to bring meals and snacks for your camper in the case that we are unable to fully accommodate any food allergies/sensitivities.
There will be at least one medical personnel on the premises 24 hours a day to administer medications and first aid. A medical facility is located within 10 miles of camp. Our medicine administration is run by a team of nurses, med-certified staff, and University of Tennessee nursing students, who will help provide care and administer medications under the supervision of their clinical instructors. Each camper’s medicines are carefully sorted, labeled, and distributed on time. Please bring your camper’s medications in their original bottles with instructions on how to administer them, what dosage, how often, and specific times to be administered.
For 2020, we are pleased to announce that the cost for each camper to attend Camp Koinonia is only $480.00 for the entire week! Over the recent years, the costs of planning, operating, and executing camp have increased considerably. The actual cost for one camper to attend camp is almost $1,000. We also charge UT students a fee of $150 to participate. Aside from the camper and counselor fees, 100% of the costs of Camp Koinonia are paid for by the Camp Koinonia Foundation through our fundraising efforts. We would like to thank all those who financially support Camp Koinonia.
Camp Koinonia Assistantship
The graduate student selected for this assistantship is responsible for Camp Koinonia initiatives/programs. This student is passionate about continually improving all aspects of Camp Koinonia.
Emma is from Franklin, TN, and graduated from UTK in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation/Sport Management with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation. She has always had a passion for helping others and discovered Camp Koinonia back in 2017 through her younger brother, Spencer, who has a developmental disability. She decided to switch her major from psychology after seeing the impact that Camp Koinonia had on the individuals that attended. She is excited to start her second year on the TREE Team. Emma would love to work for and eventually own her own non-profit that specializes in assisting adolescents with disabilities within the community. When she’s not in the office, you can find Emma exploring new restaurants or listening to podcasts.
“Camp Koinonia, home away from home. When I gave my love, I found my own.”