February 13, 2018

When Kristen Lundstrom moved to Carroll several years ago, she wanted her sons, Tyson and Charlie, who are on the autism spectrum, to have a place where they fit in.

And she wanted that for other kids in Carroll, too.

So, while still a new resident, she dreamed up the idea of a “Summer Fun Camp” where kids with autism and other disabilities could play with typical peers in an environment that benefits all of them.

Kristen Lundstrom received the Humanitarian Service Award at the annual Carroll Chamber of Commerce banquet Monday. The award recognizes someone who “seeks to promote human welfare,” said former Chamber President Jill Schweers, who presented Lundstrom with the award.

Each summer at Des Moines Area Community College since 2015, the six-week Summer Fun Camp, held five days a week in the mornings, features dancing, sports, yoga, assistance with reading, speech and social skills, field trips and more, both for kids with disabilities and typical peers.

“Those with disabilities are given the environment and encouragement to thrive,” Schweers said. “Typical kids learn that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, how to be role models. They learn empathy, seeing the best in everyone and helping others. All kids are encouraged to be and do their best.”

The involvement of local residents and businesses was vital in the creation and success of the Summer Fun Camp, Lundstrom said while accepting the award.

“When I started this, I had just moved here, and I was an unfamiliar person in a very unfamiliar community,” she said. “I would call and be like, ‘I’m starting this camp,’ and people were like, ‘What?’ — but they’d donate. And I’d get checks in the mail from people I don’t even know. … It just wouldn’t have come together without everybody and everybody’s support, so thank you.”

In the letters nominating her for the award, Lundstrom was described as tireless, patient, compassionate and dedicated, as well as someone “driven to make Carroll a community of inclusion for all children,” Schweers said.

“This camp teaches social skills and creates friendships that will last a lifetime,” Schweers said. “And it is all done with fun being the focus. … This camp is a reality only because Kristen Lundstrom saw the need and put in the work to make it happen.”

The Humanitarian Service Award has been awarded 27 times. Recent recipients include Becky Windschitl, Marilyn Setzler, the Family Resource Center, Father Tim Johnson, and Katie Towers, the late Sheryl Stoolman and the Holy Spirit Sisters.