Willow trees are known for many things—flexibility, stability, and growth, to name a few. Rooted in these qualities, Camp Willow lives up to its namesake as an organization that provides positive opportunities for children with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities. By offering the ability to explore the world through art, theater, and nature, Camp Willow cultivates a unique experience that children with disabilities are not normally able to enjoy.
Founder Sydney Watson is familiar with the challenges that children with disabilities face. Sydney has an educational background in psychology and mental health counseling, with experience as a behavior therapist for children with autism. Through this involvement, Sydney realized a need for a space dedicated to kids with disabilities to interact with the world in a positive, safe environment. Sydney describes Camp Willow as emerging “out of a pursuit to inspire and support the community’s children and families and a desire for actions to speak louder than words. It is an organization driven by progressive ideas, bold actions, and a strong foundation of support.”
As part of its mission to engage children with disabilities through art and nature, the camp offers art therapy, theatre therapy, and horse therapy. With horse therapy, children directly interact with horses in a controlled environment to build confidence in themselves and to spark an interest in animals. Through art therapy, children are given guidance to work creatively and to share their work and collaborate with others. Theatre therapy allows children to express themselves through acting, writing, and theatre production. Each of these areas of focus offers different positive experiences and lessons for the campers to grow and flourish.
The positive impact nature and art exposure has on children is priceless, yet camps that provide these experiences are usually an expensive commitment. Since its start in 2018, Camp Willow has been able to offer these experiences for free. When Sydney created Camp Willow in her hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, it was able to take root through an outpouring of support from individuals, groups, and organizations. “I did not expect so many people to be as supportive in our beginning stages. It truly shows how much people care and are willing to give back to deserving children and families,” says Sydney. “Camp Willow will only keep growing and positively impacting more lives with continued support.”
As a non-profit, Camp Willow runs on donations—and with a need for donations, having solid fundraisers is a must. With Camp Willow receiving support locally, it made sense to branch out through the internet and connect with people across the country with a Custom Ink Fundraiser. “One of our board members used to work for Custom Ink and spoke very highly of the company, and we knew we wanted to work with such an incredible and sought after team,” Sydney says. “Custom Ink also made it so convenient for us to work with them in setting up the fundraiser exactly how we wished and taking the lead for us afterwards, which made the fundraiser so smooth and easy on our end! Whenever we had questions or needed assistance, a team member would help us out with such positivity.”
With Custom Ink Fundraising providing a platform to raise money, awareness, and custom shirts for Camp Willow’s community, the only thing Camp Willow needed to worry about was coming up with a design for their apparel. Fortunately, they have artist Tara Tuls amongst their supporters who works as Camp Willow’s graphic designer. The logo’s look and feel reflects the authenticity of Camp Willow, and the quality of the t-shirts and hoodies selected for the print drew positive feedback from the supporters. Choosing to print on items like the Bella + Canvas Ultra Soft Drop Shoulder Pullover Hoodie and the Next Level 60/40 T-shirt proved to be a good decision! “So many people have raged about how comfortable our items are! I am so happy with the brands we went with and for picking quality products,” mentions Sydney.
your own t-shirt fundraiser
Pick a great cause and a name.
Choose a quality product to champion your cause
Create your design.
Set up the fundraiser.
Tell everyone you know.
One of the most exciting parts of organizing a Fundraiser through Custom Ink is providing custom apparel to supporters. Having custom gear available meant that the community could rep their pride for Camp Willow and that the children could have something to remember their time at camp. Says Sydney, “My favorite part was seeing some of the kids in their Camp Willow tees and hoodies!”
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SWEATER WEATHER + GIVING! ✨ Today we launched our fall fundraiser full of hoodies and tees! Now through Giving Tuesday on December 3rd each purchased Camp Willow clothing item directly helps cover costs for a child with disabilities and their family to come to Camp in the summer of 2020! Help us reach our goal of selling 50 items for these kids! Click the link in our bio to order your sweater or tee now (Adult + Youth sizes + different colors and styles)! If you’d rather give a direct donation, please visit our website campwillow.org/donate #AbilitiesOutweighDisabilities #GivingTuesday #Fundraiser #CampWillow #Nebraska #Camp
While the outpouring of support on Camp Willow’s Fundraising page helps keep the camp running fiscally, it serves an equally important role in motivating Sydney and the rest of the team that organizes and runs the camp. On Camp Willow’s Custom Ink Fundraising page, people are encouraged to leave a comment with their donation or custom shirt purchase. Being able to engage with the supporters and community of donors plays a big part in keeping Camp Willow running. “Throughout fundraising, I am always so inspired by how supportive people are, even when they have no direct connection to the cause. On the other hand, it is also amazing seeing people start talking about their relationship to the cause and how they are affected by it,” says Sydney. “Fundraising is never easy, and every encouraging word, like, share, or donation means the world. I am inspired by every one of those people.”
You can find out more about Camp Willow on their website at campwillow.org, or on social media through their Facebook or Instagram pages.