Family Camp for Special Needs

Family Camp for Special Needs


Once again the Diakonia Retreat Center in South Carolina will ring with the laughter of children and their families as the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos offers a Special Needs Family Camp focusing on Autism. The words from the Gospel of John; Christ the Good Shepherd loves and takes care of all of His sheep underlines the value of the special needs family camp. The camp is a collaboration of the Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos and regional specialists in the field of Autism.

I asked Despina Koulianos, the director of this groundbreaking initiative as to her motivation for designing such a camp. Her answer and observations led me to the realization that her undertaking bears a clear reference to what Mother Maria undertook 71 years ago, the “transfiguration of the world requires creative contemplation, active love, the most heartrending personal compassion, and the ability to reinvent life. It is a question of giving human beings not only bread, but also beauty, opportunity, and celebration.”

Observing a growing autistic community and the services that were being offered in cities increasing as well. She saw them being left out of programming in their own local churches. “We want to provide a faith based camp helping Autistic children grow in their relationship with God,” she says. It took Despina over a year and a half to prepare for the very first camp of its kind that ran last year and was funded entirely by Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos.

Collaborating closely with Catherine Faherty, an Autism Specialist, Despina brought on board Fr. Paul Kaplanis and Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou, working closely with them to create visual representations for messages. Both Father Paul and Fr. Panayiotis were able to put the families at ease, interacting with them and giving each family the love and care that they needed.

When will it take place?

The Special Needs Family Camp will take place May 26-29th, 2016 on the Memorial Weekend, at the Diakonia Retreat Center in South Carolina. While many of the costs for the weekend are being underwritten by the philanthropic work of the Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos and individual donors, a $100 reservation is all that is asked from each family. This camp will draw children from 7 states to the Retreat Center in South Carolina. Families will assume their own travel expenses, as Philoptochos is working on offering the families a weekend with expenses at the Retreat Center covered, so as not to burden them with any additional stress.

Who can attend Family Camp?

Families with a child on the Autism Spectrum, siblings are welcomed in all aspects of the program. Parents will experience some activities with their children and some special parent seminars will take place. The session is limited to 10 families to accommodate the physical, social, emotional and dietary needs, including lodging.

To date, camp is financed through the work of Philoptochos organization, and commitments from a family foundation and individuals. Philoptochos will have raised in the range of $7,000 towards their goal of funding this special camp with $6,000 left to raise for 2016.




The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society is the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America with 26,000 members nationwide.  Philoptochos responds immediately to needs and crises and its philanthropic outreach extends to each area of the country and throughout the world. In 2015, National Philoptochos distributed $1.737 million in philanthropic aid.

The Philoptochos’s major philanthropic initiatives are worth learning more about including:  Feeding the Hungry: 250,000 MealsSaint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center, and National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund.


The National Philoptochos Society mission is to charitable, benevolent and philanthropic outreach to preserve the sanctity of life and family and to perpetuate and promote our Orthodox faith and traditions.”  The organization is led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman, His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, Spiritual Advisor, Maria Logus, President, Arlene Siavelis Kehl, First Vice President, Evangeline Mekras Scurtis, Second Vice President, Jeannie Ranglas, Third Vice President, Christine Karavites, Secretary, Martha Stefanidakis, Treasurer, Georgia Vlitas, Assistant Treasurer and Aphrodite Skeadas, Advisor.  The organization’s Director is Helen Lavorata.

  • The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, Inc. is the philanthropic arm of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America that has offered eighty-five years of philanthropy through a multitude of programs that make a difference in the lives of people in the United States and throughout the world.  The Society was established in November 1931, by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, who was then serving as Archbishop of North and South America.
  • Philoptochos fulfills its mission to “help the poor, the destitute, the hungry, the aged, the sick, the unemployed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the widowed, those with disabilities and the victims of disasters through its National and Metropolis Boards and its 26,000 members and more than 400 active chapters, nationwide.
  • His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America called Philoptochos, “an army of nobility and the jewel of our Church.”

To learn more about the National Philoptochos Society, visit  For more information regarding this material and the National Philoptochos Society, please contact Rania Richardson, Communications Manager at

Click on the following link to make a donation online directly to the Philoptochos.

Look for the National Philoptochos on Social Media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, LINKEDIN, YOUTUBE and soon on INSTAGRAM


The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United Stated of America, originally commissioned by SCOBA to create a national, sustainable, and effective media witness for Orthodox Christianity throughout North America. In a constantly changing media landscape, OCN delivers positive, relevant Orthodox content via multiple delivery platforms, reaching today’s internet users via broadcast, video, blogging, and webinar content.

This 501(c)3 is recognized as a leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty years. OCN shares the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. We have reached 5.7 Million People in One Week. Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners, readers, and fans. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website. Your gift will ensure that OCN may continue to offer free, high-quality, theological media.


Spark OCN app is an Orthodox Christian News portal that allows you to take action. Spark provides daily devotions, live Bible study, and you can read and learn about events going on in the Orthodox Christian world, especially those concerning persecuted Christians. In addition to making it easy to share news and articles with friends, Spark allows you make prayer requests for those who are suffering.

Orthodox Prayer Book is the ultimate prayer assistant for Orthodox Christians. Not only does it allow you to carry your prayers around, it was designed from the ground-up for the iPhone to allow you to pray in the least distracting manner possible. Carry all the prayers, information about daily saints and fasting schedules with you throughout your day. Keep a list of people you want to pray for and have them automatically embedded into the prayers.

Click here to download the Spark OCN and Orthodox Prayer Book.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on Twitter,Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest

About author

Anberin Pasha

Anberin Pasha, OCN's Digital Disciple Producer and Program Coordinator is a Graduate student in the Master's of Divinity Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.