Originally incorporated in 1906 as The Crippled Children’s East Side Free School in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the organization created a Summer Home in Oakhurst, New Jersey for the children who attended the school. Rising Treetops at Oakhurst in its earliest incarnation provided children with an opportunity to spend a few weeks enjoying fresh air, but there were few programs or organized activities for the children to engage in. They slept in a dormitory setting on cots, with separate sections for boys and girls. The only other building at that time was an infirmary.
In the early 20th century, Camp Oakhurst started with only 48 camper families. In 2017, nearly 1,000 children and adults were provided services at Rising Treetops at Oakhurst!
In the fall of 1946, the organization, renamed New York Service for the Orthopedically Handicapped, again directed its services toward developing a pilot pre-school program for children with cerebral palsy. Its purpose was to prove that an otherwise typically developing child with cerebral palsy could learn the necessary skills to attend mainstream classes. Through an intensive program which incorporated physical and speech therapy into its curriculum, it achieved such success that in 1952 the Board of Education adopted it in its entirety.
The 1950s saw major renovations to Rising Treetops at Oakhurst, including the building of its first swimming pool. Known colloquially as Camp Oakhurst, it continued to offer innovative programs into the next decade, including an Independent Living Project which placed institutionalized adults in foster homes into the community.
A Community Services program offered children with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy recreational programs throughout the city side by side with their peers without disabilities. One of the last programs to be initiated outside of the camp was the Alexander School, which offered adults with disabilities the opportunity to receive vocational training and educational services. The agency was then renamed New York Service for the Handicapped in 1969.
In 1986 Camp Oakhurst opened its year-round overnight respite program, and began to winterize all the buildings on the camp grounds. In 1992 the agency embarked on a multi-million-dollar rebuilding program for the camp, including a new gymnasium and swimming pool with a retractable roof. Since 2010 the agency has added respites and summer camp sessions for children and adults diagnosed with autism. In 2012 we began providing emergency respite services and in 2015 we formally added a day respite program for local school-age children.
Today, Rising Treetops at Oakhurst is open all year, serving children and adults with special needs through our summer sleep away camp, year-round overnight respite (planned and emergency) and day respite care programs.
To enhance the quality of life for children and adults with special needs, including autism and physical and intellectual disabilities, and provide respite for their families through a year-round camp experience, based in Monmouth County, NJ.
Rising Treetops at Oakhurst will be a preeminent resource to provide safe, accepting, and accessible services that allow its clients to gain confidence, reach their potential, and build a community of friends while enjoying all that our camp has to offer.