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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

090117 kampnDEEP GAP — With its sixth season drawn to a close, the campers of Kids with Autism Making Progress in Nature (KAMPN) at Camp Cogger have all headed home.

Located in Deep Gap, near Boone, the free summer camp is owned and run by Dr. Jim Taylor and his wife Sue along with Program Coordinator Kelsey Trevethan. Additional help comes from students at nearby Appalachian State University and other schools in the area.

Like most summer camps it includes fishing, hiking, berry picking, scavenger hunts, nature walks and campfires. But what sets Camp Cogger apart is it includes both children with autism as well as their families.

While the 2017 camp season has ended, fundraising for the planned KAMPN LIFE (Living Innovations for the Exceptional) Village continues.

The idea for a sustainable, residential community for adults with autism had been in Taylor’s mind for a number of years but it wasn’t until he met Candace Lang one summer that the idea became an actual project.

Lang’s daughter Erin was born with cerebral palsy and later diagnosed with autism. As her daughter grew older, Lang and husband, Rich, worried about who would care for her when they no longer could. Options in the area were limited.

“After the age of 21, services offered by the school system end,” Lang said. “All of the support staff that has been with our children since preschool are gone, leaving many families with little to no support.”

Lang crossed paths with Taylor in July 2014 after hearing about the success of Camp Cogger. After sharing her vision of an intentional community with Taylor, they agreed they were of the same mind and started the LIFE initiative.

In June 2016, Lang moved to Boone to work with Taylor on the project. In September she was hired as development director and together with Melissa Shore, a KAMPN Board member and mom of two boys on the autism spectrum, developed a business plan, designed a website, launched social media efforts and started grant writing. There are now three committees: Fundraising, Land Acquisition and Compliance.

“In the next 15 years, 500,000 children on the autism spectrum will be entering adulthood with few housing options,” Lang explains. “Where will these individuals live when their aging parents can no longer care for them?”

“As modern medicine and advances in education have allowed for our exceptional members of society to live longer lives, we must begin to plan for what happens when adults with disabilities enter adulthood,” Taylor adds.

Dr. Taylor is a 4th degree Knights of Columbus at St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country in Boone. Camp Cogger was named after another 4th degree Knight, the late Frank Cogger, He was a very dedicated and widely respected Knight in Conover.

Taylor has worked with children with disabilities and their families since 1964. Over the years the Knights have supported him in numerous programs in which he has been involved, even helping to build a playground on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands where he was on sabbatical leave from East Carolina University.

This coming April, National Autism Month, plans are being developed to have several cycling events, called “Cycling4LIFE,” conducted in several cities in western North Carolina. The Knights have expressed an interest in helping Taylor again and he plans to use future proceeds to help build the first residence at the LIFE Village. He is considering naming it “Knight’s Manor.”

While Camp Cogger is a summer program, LIFE Village will be a permanent residential community for adults who are on the autism spectrum or those with related disabilities who live in the North Carolina High Country. Like Camp Cogger, it will be a nonprofit.

Camp Cogger was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 1, 2011, and was incorporated and received its 501c(3) status the same day. The law firm handling the legal paperwork said they had never seen that happen before as the process of becoming a nonprofit usually takes six months to a year, Taylor noted, adding, “Let’s pray for the same type of miracle for the LIFE Village.”

— Diana Patulak Ross, Correspondent

Get more info
For details about volunteering or donating to either Camp Cogger or LIFE Village, go to www.kampn4autism.appstate.edu/camp-cogger or www.thelifevillage.net, or check them out on Facebook at KAMPN4Autism or KAMPNLIFEVillage. You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..