Although Camp Encourage has grown a lot since its first year and provides more opportunities to provide encouragement outside of summer camp with the addition of the two OVERNIGHT (mini camp) sessions, we believe our campers deserve even more. In a recent survey, 100% of Camp Encourage parents indicated that they would like to see their camper continue connections outside of camp and 100% stated that they want their camper to continue to hear the same positive messages embedded at Camp Encourage. However, very few campers had connected with another camper outside of camp.

Camp Encourage developed a plan to change this and thanks to our supporters, cost effective CONNECTIONS, or well-designed and structured social opportunities tailored to support campers with ASD, are now available. With quality evidence-based supports and trained professionals, campers will gather, connect, grow, be encouraged, and learn from one another in a family-like, accepting atmosphere in the greater Kansas City area. Activities will vary but the messages will be clear:

You are enough, you are capable, you are worthy, and you are loved.

Click on each tab below for a description of the upcoming CONNECTIONS outings.

Registration is currently open. Unlike our camp sessions, a lottery will not occur and slots will fill on an as-registered-and-accepted basis. For those that have already submitted a 2020 online application, visit HERE for helpful tips on how to proceed. For those that have not applied, please complete an application HERE.

Note: As outings are scheduled, they will appear below. Be sure to read through the helpful details regarding each.



Participants will work in small groups to create and enjoy homemade pasta, sauces, and cannoli. In addition to having an opportunity to socially connect in a safe and loving environment while trying new foods, skills targeted will include enhancing self-esteem, strengthening independence, and gaining skills to work collaboratively, problem solve, make choices, and prepare foods.

Helpful Details:

  • Water and lemonade will be available.
  • There is a restaurant near Taste Buds Kitchen called Berg and Barrel should parents need a location to relax while the campers participate in the Connections outing.
  • Taste Buds Kitchen will provide gluten free options but must know at least five days in advance. 
  • Please be sure to arrive by 2:45pm. And, please be sure a parent or guardian arrives promptly at 5:00pm.

Taste Buds Kitchen
5336 W. 151st Street
Leawood, Kansas 66224


2:45pm to 5pm



Each outing is $30 and must be paid once notified of acceptance. This cost includes all activities, all food and beverage, and quality staff support (with a ratio of 1 youth: 3 adults). Scholarships are available for our overnight camps but not for the Connections outing as each Connections outing is greatly discounted.

What to Expect

Structured outings in the greater Kansas City area will be provided to allow time to connect and share joy while under the supervision of encouraging, trained staff. Details regarding each scheduled outing can be found within the above tabs.

Examples of future outings may include outdoor adventures, attending a play or other performance, swimming, bowling, attending a sporting event, visiting the zoo, participating in board games, and much more. Should you or your camper have any suggestions, please contact our Program Coordinator. Our campers often have THE best ideas!


Campers and Peer Model Campers, between the age of 8 and 18, that have already attended Camp Encourage within two years of the scheduled Connections activity are eligible to attend. The intention of involving already-attending campers is that the staff is familiar with each camper's unique needs and because we hope to further enrich the lives of those attending Camp Encourage by keeping them engaged in the messages and surrounding them more regularly with encouragement.

A Camper Application must already be submitted through our new online registration system so that we have all updated information.

Programming Focus

We hold the same beliefs that: every person with an ASD is an individual; is capable of great things; is deserving of individualized, research-based supports; and flourishes in a supportive and encouraging environment. We understand that each camper has his or her own interests, motivators, strengths, and areas for need of support and growth. Although individualized supports are provided as needed and although there will be additional focused objectives within each outing, many of the activities, just like during our overnight camp sessions, aim to achieve the following set of general goals:

  • increasing skills of independence
  • enhancing one's self-esteem
  • increasing personal self-understanding and acceptance
  • increasing social abilities
  • widening awareness of recreation opportunities and skills of recreation
  • connecting with others with similar interests, needs, and/or abilities
Ages Targeted

Just as with our overnight camps, Connections are focused on those between the age of 8 and 18 at the time of the service. Because only 15 campers will be able to attend each outing, ages and genders will vary. Camp Encourage feels it is important to have the diverse group with the idea that we are a family. We have found that when in a nurturing, encouraging environment, youth of all ages support and learn from one another and despite age differences, connect and form family-like relationships. It's a space of belonging—a place where you're accepted and loved.


Each camper participating in the Connections activities must be transported to the outing location as no transportation will be provided. Specific drop off and pick up details will be provided once the participant has been officially accepted and offered a slot to join the goodness.


Kristi Loftus and Sandy Smith who have been with Camp Encourage since the early years are developing and overseeing each Connections outing. In addition to their expertise (which you can read about here), we have selected some of our top-notch, always-present supporters that have been at camp for years in the role of a Counselor or Group Leader. We wanted to ensure quality services while also making sure that familiar faces were abundant and consistent leadership were present.