When parents began asking Elizabeth Holloway and others about activities for their children with special needs in Monroe County this summer, Holloway found that there were not a lot of opportunities. Holloway is an ACCESS teacher and faculty advisor of the Best Buddies Club at Mary Persons; the goal of Best Buddies is to include persons with disabilities in all aspects of the community to the point there is no longer a reason for the club.
Since there wasn’t a camp for young campers with special needs, they put together CampABLE as part of the city of Forsyth’s series of summer camps that run for a week each through June and July. Other camps focus on interests such as basketball, karate, arts & crafts, science and music.
CampABLE is open to young people ages 5 to 21. During its first two days, it had served 12 campers each day. Holloway said there are 18 volunteers helping with the camp, from ages 8 to 73. They planned so they could accommodate 50 campers, if needed, but Holloway said it was great to be able to assign a volunteer to each camper and still have a few left to help with set up and clean up for activities.
Each day there is a craft, a science experiment, recreation and a snack. Campers painted bird houses and made visors, picture frames and flower pots. Recreation included zumba, golf, kickball and a water day. A science experiment created a tie-dye effect with milk, food coloring and Dawn detergent. Campers were fascinated by the explosion of colors and their ability to paint with them.
Holloway said that by becoming part of the city’s series of camps, supplies were provided for them, which was a boost in making the camp possible. She said that because of issues with needing special foods or needing help with toilet breaks many of these campers cannot go to other camps.
“We don’t want to exclude anyone,” said Holloway. She said the camp benefits not only campers but also their parents, who, like all parents, need a break from being constant caregivers in the summer. On the last day of camp there will be a cookout that will include families and give them a chance to get to know one another and hopefully continue some of the friendships formed at camp.
The 2016 Leadership Monroe Class is raising funds for a playground adapted for children with disabilities that is planned adjacent to the Monroe County Recreation playground in front of the Youth Center. When asked if working with the campers on the Recreation Department playground pointed to a need for the adapted playground, Beth Chafin, one of CampABLE’s leaders, said that it did. She said that they could especially use an easier way to get wheelchairs to the playground and more playground equipment that campers in wheelchairs can use.
“[The inclusive playground] is very much needed, absolutely,” said Chafin. “The only one now in Monroe County is a small part of the Hubbard Elementary playground that an Eagle Scout did as a project.”