Nikolay Arnold, 17, of Meadville exits the pool after swimming with other Camp STAR campers.
Girl Scout Kate Kromka, 17, of Monroeville, left, participates in a meeting to finish the schedule of the 2008 Camp STAR with co-director Cindy McCue, who lost a leg to cancer when she was 14. They met at the home of co-director Stacie Murrer earlier this month.
By Tina Calabro
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have a number of summer camps for youth with special needs. One of those is up and running again, thanks to grassroots effort and four Monroeville Girl Scouts.
Camp STAR (Summer Time Amputee Retreat), was launched at Camp Kon-O-Kwee/Spencer near Zelienople, this past weekend. The four-day camp, formerly known as the Adolescent Amputee Camp, had been on hiatus since 2004.
The momentum to restart the camp had an unusual origin, said coordinator Cindy McCue, 35, a former camper and counselor who lost a leg to cancer when she was 14.
"The camp is back this year because of a conversation I had with my dentist while I was in the chair," said Mrs. McCue of Penn Hills. Then and there, her dentist, Dr. Stacie Murrer, made a commitment to help coordinate the camp and to ask her daughter, Brianne, and three other Girl Scouts to take on the camp on as their Gold Award project.
"That's the most prestigious community service award for Girl Scouts," said Mrs. McCue. In addition to Brianne, the scouts are Cassie Buxter, Kate Kromka and Susan Gogniat. All attend Gateway High School.
Camp STAR, which receives support from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, gives youth ages 8 to 18 with limb loss and amputation the chance to connect with others in a relaxed setting. It supports the development of a healthy, confident and active lifestyle.
Campers participate in a number of sports and activities. They also can talk with prostheticists, physical therapists and counselors.
The camp was established in 1976 by occupational therapist Gay Gregg and operated continuously at Camp Kon-O-Kwee until 2004.
Mrs. McCue attended the camp as a teen and met her future husband, Terry, there. They have been married for 11 years and have three children.
Mrs. McCue remembers the freedom she felt when she swam at the camp for the first time. "When I lost my leg, I didn't want to go to a public pool because people stared at me. It was great to be at the camp with similar kids. I didn't have to put on airs or try to fit in. I could just be. We could share experiences -- some of them bizarre -- that nobody else would understand."
Space was limited this summer; next year more openings may be available. This year the cost was a $50 non-refundable registration fee.