By Alyssa Weston
The Purple Cat in Youngstown is building an overnight camp for adults with disabilities at Farmer Casey’s Ranch in Lowellville, Ohio, called Gabba Camp.
The Purple Cat offers a day habilitation program for adults with disabilities. Clients participate in a wide variety of creative projects and classes with the goal of helping them to reach their full potential.
The Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation gave the Purple Cat a $750,000 grant to begin constructing Gabba Camp.
Jimmy Sutman, owner of the Purple Cat, said Gabba Camp will be named after Mike Senchak, the foundation president’s, granddaughter Gabriella “Gabba” Berg.
The camp will be placed on 30 acres of Farmer Casey’s Ranch and will include special amenities such as handicapped rooms and padding near the pond.
Sutman said in the past when the Purple Cat has gone camping, they could only take two people in wheelchairs when they really wanted to take eight or ten, but now anyone could go and not have to worry about transportation or lack of handicap accessible rooms.
Gabba Camp will be advertised beyond Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Sutman said clients will have transportation to and from the airport if flying in.
According to Sutman, Gabba Camp will be the first of its kind in Youngstown.
“Most organizations that deal with disabilities stop providing services after the age of 20,” he said.
Sutman said the biggest challenge of building the camp has been the construction and communicating with the architects, but once the facilities are open he is excited to see his staff work with the clients in a new atmosphere.
Haley Mitchell, an intern and volunteer of the Purple Cat, said Gabba Camp will differ from a normal Purple Cat day programs because it will be like a vacation for the clients.
“It won’t be considered a job, and it will not be a fully residential facility. This provides the clients with a little getaway feeling and a twist on their normal schedules and routines,” she said.
Mitchell said clients will benefit from the camp in many ways.
“[Being in nature] you can explore within yourself, and realize things that you don’t need, simply by surviving without them. I know the clients will benefit from things like this, and they will learn so much that they can then integrate into their daily routines,” she said
Mitchell is especially excited to see the Gabba Camp property once it’s all built.
“I have always loved all of the nature at the farm, and I can’t wait to see all of the new, exciting buildings and facilities,” she said.
Brooke Nobbs, a Youngstown State University alumnus and day program instructor at the Purple Cat, said she is looking forward to a new place that the clients get to go to and experience great things at.
“I think the other biggest excitement for me comes from the little kid inside, everyone loves camp, at least most people do, and I know I can’t wait to share the camping experience with the clients,” she said.
Nobbs said she hopes Gabba Camp will become a place for clients to learn, have fun and make memories that will last forever for them.
Although no day at the Purple Cat or it’s other sites the same, the camp will add new factors that the community hasn’t seen from Purple Cat before.
“Jimmy has talked about horses and a wheelchair accessible hiking trail. I think that’s going to be a hugely awesome ingredient to it all, and the clients will be able to safely walk through the woods and experience nature. Possibly in ways they have never been able to before,” Nobbs said.
Gabba Camp is scheduled to open in summer 2019.