Camp Macusani: Connecting Special Needs with Alpaca Love

Peter Corley loves working with his alpacas and their beautiful fiber. Photo courtesy of Alta Vita Alpacas.

Peter Corley loves working with his alpacas and their beautiful fiber. Photo courtesy of Alpaca Partners

Camp Macusani, now entering its third year, is a Colorado summer camp that helps families in the special needs community to explore fiber arts. Organized by Cari and Dan Corley of Alpaca Partners, campers spend four days with alpacas and sheep, learning about animal care and exploring spinning and weaving. The goal is to “expose our Alpaca Partners to different fiber options and then as they find one they like, spend time with them throughout the following school year helping them develop that craft. Whether it will be a hobby that provides enjoyment and quality of life or potentially an income producing option will be up to them.”

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Alpaca Partners cofounder Cari Corley last month at Interweave Yarn Fest, which she attended as a scholarship recipient. We all come to the fiber community from different directions, and I have enjoyed learning about the Corley family’s journey and think you will, too. Here is Cari’s story, in her own words:

Solar dying at Camp M. Photo courtesy of Alta Vita Alpacas.

Solar dying at Camp Macusani. Photo courtesy of Alpaca Partners.

“Our oldest son Peter, now 21, was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome when he was in kindergarten. After the diagnosis, we knew he would need support to build his vision of his future, and this journey led us to alpacas. In 2013, Peter purchased his first alpacas shortly after participating in his first alpaca show. Dan and I were immediately struck by how welcoming the alpaca community was towards Peter. He was able to function in this community as a peer, not a recipient of charity.

“We were not the only ones to notice dramatic growth in Peter’s confidence and demeanor. It was obvious the impact the alpacas had on Peter, and we wondered if others could benefit from being with alpacas also. It was after reading a speech by Nelson Mandela that our vision of therapeutic support for special needs individuals took an exciting turn. He said this: ‘We have in this past decade progressed, slow as it may have been, towards living together in the acknowledgement of the basic equality and right to dignity of all human beings. . . . It is so easy to think of equality demands with reference primarily to race, color, religion and gender; and to forget, or to relegate to secondary importance, the vast discrimination against disabled persons.’ This quote lit a fire under us to not only be a potential therapeutic option for individuals with special needs, but to become a platform for independence and opportunity.

Learning and growing in the fiber arts community. Photo courtesy of Alpaca Partners.

Learning and growing in the fiber arts community. Photo courtesy of Alpaca Partners.

“This passion is what has drawn us to the fiber community—the opportunities are truly limitless! The mission of Alpaca Partners is to serve the special needs community through our passion for alpacas, including animal care and fiber processing. We strive to support each person as they develop their individuality and pursue competence in an area of specific interest. Alpaca Partners is just at the beginning of this journey, but we hope to build an inclusive community that helps people with all types of abilities and challenges to explore the wonderful world of fiber.”

Camp Macusani 2016 will be held June 28‒July 1 at Alta Vida Alpacas near Parker, Colorado. Registration information is online.

 

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