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Thursday January 20th

UNC student Madison Tibbetts wants to go to summer camp

First-Year Madison Tibbetts is raising money on Gofundme to help pay for a summer camp geared towards people with Autism, Camp Royall, and to help start an autism chapter at UNC.
Buy Photos First-Year Madison Tibbetts is raising money on Gofundme to help pay for a summer camp geared towards people with Autism, Camp Royall, and to help start an autism chapter at UNC.

First-year Madison Tibbetts keeps busy. 

The computer science major wants to start a club, as part of a society and volunteers at Camp Royall, a 133-acre facility run by the Autism Society of North Carolina near Pittsboro. Tibbetts, who uses the pronoun "they," is currently trying to attend Camp Royall's Summer Camp, a camp for people on the austistic spectrum. They were accepted into "high-functioning teens" week this summer.  

Acceptance to one of Camp Royall's weeklong summer camps is not guaranteed.

"It's a lottery," said Camp Royall Director Lesley Fraser. "We do priority based on who went last." 

Fraser said there are approximately 320 spots for 445 applicants.

"We accept campers based on if they attended camp before," she said. "Those who haven't are put on high priority."

Although Tibbetts is a volunteer at Camp Royall, they have never attended Camp Royall as a camper.

In addition to accepting Tibbetts, the Autism Society of North Carolina awarded them a scholarship to attend. The scholarship covered a portion of the $1,700 cost. 

"My mom was so excited for me to have this opportunity. But then she realized that we're not going to be able to afford it unless we get help," Tibbetts said.

Tibbetts set up a GoFundMe in order to meet the cost not covered by the scholarship. Currently, they've raised about half of the necessary $585. 

Senior Hannah Haas was one of the donors. She is the former president of the Autism Society of North Carolina's UNC-Chapel Hill campus chapter. 

Haas said she is still active in the club and sees Tibbetts at all the club meetings and events.

"I've been in a position of financial need before," Haas said. "A small contribution can make a difference."

Tibbetts said if they can raise money needed to attend, they are looking forward to the activities at camp.

"I am most excited about this giant pyramid thing made of ropes that you can climb, the obstacle course and the sensory room," they said.

The sensory room is a therapeutic room that helps campers overcome sensory overload. 

"Not many autistic people have the chance to use a sensory room, because they cost several thousand dollars," Tibbetts said.

Camp Royall is specifically designed for people on the autism spectrum, but Tibbetts said the UNC campus is not made for those with autism.

"Many campus functions need more adaptations," Tibbetts said. "For example, I can't go to Lenoir most of the time because the way it's designed is sensory overload for me." 

Tibbetts plans on starting a chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network on campus. 

Although the new club is primarily focused on self-advocacy, Tibbetts said the membership will be open to everybody.

"I want to make it primarily for autistic people," Tibbetts said. "I feel like the autism conversation is dominated by people who don't have the condition. The real autism experts are autistic people."

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