I grew up surrounded by persons with special needs, as my father, and hero, Irv Segal, started the first supervised vacation program for adults with special needs. During each summer my dad would run a special needs camp called The Guided Tour’s Adult Resort which still takes place every August. During the summer Camp Lee Mar is a camp for kids with down syndrome, autism, developmental challenges and many other special needs (mild to moderate), but after the children depart camp in mid-August, The Guided Tour runs its’ special needs camp called the Adult Resort.
It was during my college years at the University of Maryland that I knew for sure I wanted to work with persons with special needs. While at Maryland I was in a fraternity called Tau Epsilon Phi (TEP). As a sophomore I was constantly calling my parents for money for fraternity events and formals. At one point my dad said to me over the phone, “Don’t you think you should get a job to help pay for all these fraternity events you are involved in?” I remember saying back “What kind of job?” My dad proceeded to tell me that I should work in a group home with special needs adults since I had loads of experience working for The Guided Tour. This made sense to me, and I interviewed for a weekend position in a group home in Rockville, MD for adults with developmental challenges. From that moment on I never had to ask my parents for any money to support my wonderful fraternity activities. In addition to making me financially independent during my college years, this wonderful experience also solidified my desire to work alongside my father with persons with special needs.
During many of my summer breaks during college I also worked at a regular overnight camp. I loved this camp, and always enjoyed The Guided Tour’s special needs camp as well. When the opportunity presented itself for me to work at a camp for kids with down syndrome and other developmental challenges, I jumped at the chance to combine my love for camp, and my love for working with persons with special needs, by working at a special needs camp.
After one summer working at Camp Lee Mar I decided I wanted to work with both children and adults with special needs. After purchasing Camp Lee Mar I was able to make this happen. During the summer I direct Camp Lee Mar, which is a camp for kids with down syndrome, kids on the autism spectrum, and for kids with developmental challenges. Over the last 28 years I have spent every summer at this special needs camp. At the same time, I continue to direct our year-round supervised vacation program for adults with special needs called The Guided Tour.
Life is full of decisions that direct your journey through life. In my case, had I not joined a fraternity, I am not sure I would ever have decided to get the job during college working with adults with special needs, which in turn solidified my life’s ambition to work with the special needs population, and eventually work and direct a special needs camp.
Written by Ari Segal, MSW
My name is Ari Segal, I am the director at Camp Lee Mar. I am married, and we have three incredible children. My oldest child happens to be developmentally challenged and was a camper at Lee Mar (He aged out at 21 and is now 22.) I have been with Camp Lee Mar since 1993. I also direct a year-round, supervised, vacation program for adults, 18 & up, with developmental challenges called The Guided Tour.