Camp Twin Lakes celebrates 30 years with expansion



Camp serves youths with illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges

McKenzie Wortman has spent part of the past 10 summers at Camp Twin Lakes in Morgan County seeing friends and participating in outdoor activities that she can’t easily access at home in Johns Creek.

“Camp means the world to me because I can come to a place where I can be lifted out of my wheelchair to do the zip line or the rock wall and make it all the way to the top,” Wortman, 24, said.

The nonprofit Camp Twin Lakes has provided a full summer camp experience for children and young adults with serious illnesses, disabilities and other challenges for 30 years.

Wortman was one of about 300 people to visit the camp Thursday for the ceremonial opening of a $25 million new campus next to the camp’s original space in Rutledge, about 45 miles east of downtown Atlanta. The new campus is the third Camp Twin Lakes location and is expected to welcome about 3,500 campers per year.

Along with summer programs for kids, the camps welcome families to stay throughout the year. The amenities include a ropes course, a pool, playground equipment, cabins, creative spaces, a gym and a cafeteria. There’s a full medical center that can be equipped for any camper’s needs and a walk-up pharmacy, along with professional medical volunteers to take care of the campers.

The new space is designed to accommodate populations that previously could not attend Camp Twin Lakes, such as children with mental health disorders. Jill Morrisey, chief executive of the camp, said it has worked in recent years to welcome campers with different life situations, such as living in foster care or having a parent who is incarcerated.

Morrisey noted all campers, who come from every county in Georgia, receive scholarships that prevent finances from barring anyone’s attendance.

Along with having access to activities, Wortman said one of the best parts of camp is being around people with similar physical challenges and knowing there are accommodations for them.

“People at camp don’t ask me, what’s going on or why I’m in the (wheel)chair,” she said. “It’s a relief — it is every year — for me to come to a place where I don’t have to endure concerns about a place being accessible. I know that all those worries are being taken care of.”



Members of the camp community got to look around the empty cabins and other facilities after a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Thursday, but longtime leaders in the organization said the place will really come alive toward the end of April when the first campers visit.

“You don’t know camp until you come to camp,” Elizabeth Correll Richards, a board member who helped lead fundraising for the expansion, said. “You have to get on the campus and see the families and see the kids and watch their lives change in front of you.”

She said campers don’t just get to have fun and make friends. They encourage one another, develop new skills and gain independence.

Doug Hertz, the founder of Camp Twin Lakes, said he never expected the camp to grow to this size. With the new campus, Camp Twin Lakes is expected to serve 13,500 campers per year.

He’s taken aback by how often strangers approach him with a story about Camp Twin Lakes, but over 30 years, about 150,000 campers have attended. “It reminds me that we did something pretty good here,” he said.