Evan’s Destination Day Camp is a fun way for students enrolled in the Highlands Hospital Regional Center for Autism school to get outside of the classroom and enjoy some fun activities out in the community.
Jordan Morran, director of autism services with the hospital, said community-style field trips so far have included a visit from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a bowling trip and a visit to Living Treasures Animal Park in Donegal.
“We started with a visit in-house from the Carnegie Museum so they could get the learning skills needed to actually go out on a field trip,” she said. “They did really well with the visit and also did a great job on the two outings.”
This year they’re hoping to have Carnegie Museums come back for a visit. They’re looking into an indoor recreation facility in Uniontown, and next summer they’re hoping for a trip to Yogi Bear Campground in Mill Run.
“Yogi Bear is very ambitious for us, but we think it’s doable,” Morran said.
Without the fundraising efforts through Evan’s Destination Day Camp, Morran said they would not be able to provide these opportunities for the students.
John and Diane Carom, business owners in the Uniontown area, set up Evan’s Destination Day Camp in memory of their son who had a heart for the autistic community.
Evan (Carom) was introduced to Camp S.P.E.A.K. by older cousins who were special education teachers and worked at this Pittsburgh camp for autistic kids,” said John Carom.
He volunteered for the first year and submitted his volunteer work as his senior project, but camp managers liked his work so much that they hired him back for the next 10 years until his death in August 2015.
Evan was employed as a full-time employee at the family business, Abby’s Gold and Gems, because he was being prepared, along with his older sister, Danette, to eventually succeed us and own and operate the business,” John Carom said.
But Evan actually chose to make less money working at the summer camp each year than what he would have made working those months at the family business.
Evan loved his work with autistic kids as a teacher’s aide, since he did not have a teaching degree, and the kids in his groups and their parents often requested to be in his group,” John Carom said. “The staff also always remarked how well Evan worked with the kids, many of whom were non-verbal, sometimes acted out in public and generally needed help navigating the world outside of a very structured environment like school.”
After Evan passed away, the program, Evan’s Destination Day Camp, was started by his parents to respond to a need they know exists for the students at the Regional Center for Autism that lines up perfectly with what Evan did as a volunteer and then employee at the summer camp in Pittsburgh.
We know if asked, ‘Evan, should we put together a program and fund it that would provide recreation, socialization and education to autistic kids close to home,’ he’d have said yes in a heartbeat,” said John Carom.
While in some years prior, Highlands Hospital had sponsored a race for autism in Connellsville, this is the first year for a walk/run sponsored by Evan’s Destination Day Camp. This is not a timed race.
The walk/run is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the Sheepskin Trail at Hutchinson Park in Hopwood. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and the walk/run will start at 10 a.m.
Pre-registration is $20 for 14 years and older or $10 for ages 8 to 13. Those who preregister are guaranteed a shirt. Race day registration is $25 for 14 years and older or $15 for ages 8 to 13. Race day registrants are not guaranteed a shirt.
Registration forms can be printed from the website www.evansdestinationdaycamp.com. Checks should be made out to Highlands Hospital Regional Center for Autism and completed registration forms and checks should be mailed to: John Carom c/o Abby’s 197 Morgantown Street, Uniontown, 15401.
The unofficial goal the Carom’s had hoped to raise with this walk/run was $5,000, and while they don’t have a final count yet because walkers, runners and sponsorships are still coming in, John Carom feels certain they’ve exceeded $12,000 so far.
For the future we may want to consider passing the walk on to another party or organization,” John Carom said. “It’s possible we will consider other fund raising efforts that have a different method of raising funds.
A lot may depend on how the center expands,” he added. “Now that their capacity is 75 students in the future, perhaps our fundraising that supports Evan’s Destination Day Camp’s program may require even more effort than we expended this year.”