The PartnerSports Camp recently completed its 2013 summer camp at the YMCA. More than 45 students participated and it was a great success. The camp is a collaborative effort between the Douglas Educational Service District and the YMCA.
It is facilitated through grant funding from several local donors and is a one-of-a-kind experience for kids in our county.
The camp pairs a student (partner) with a disabled camper. The partners and campers participate in camp activities such as hiking, fishing, basketball, tennis, golf and many others. Campers form friendships with each other that will last a lifetime.
Partners and campers learn what it is like to work with a peer. Partners begin to realize firsthand what it must be like to be a person with a disability, and the challenges this can bring. More importantly, partners develop skills that will serve them well in life.
They learn to be empathetic to the needs of others, as well as to be patient and kind. It truly is a valuable and remarkable experience for them.
Likewise, campers get to experience the joy of going to a summer camp that allows them to be kids and have fun. They get to do things any other camper at any other camp would do, and they get to do it alongside a new friend. The smiles and laughter that are seen and heard throughout the camp are proof that kids are kids. No matter what their circumstances, children love to play and laugh and enjoy life with their friends. PartnerSports Camp allows disabled children in our county to have this experience.
PartnerSports Camp owes its existence to a group of individuals seven years ago who had the vision and will to start something that had never been done.
It began as Camp Shriver and has developed into its current form. The people of the county should be grateful to them, because the camp is an opportunity that exists nowhere else. The camp still exists because of these volunteers and donors who come each day to make it a reality. Without their generous support, it would not be possible.
In recent years, the DESD has assumed the role of leadership and planning for the camp, alongside the YMCA. This collaboration has allowed us to develop a camp that can accommodate a wide variety of disabilities.
It has also helped to get professionals with expertise in working with disabled students more involved. The YMCA graciously allows us to use its facility and have access to its staff.
This relationship is developing into a valuable partnership, and demonstrates the opportunities that are realized when agencies coordinate their efforts. It also highlights the strength and health of our community.
Without the generous support of our sponsors, volunteers, student partners and camp staff, this event would not occur. It is important that our community continue to support this event. In the next few years the camp will develop and grow to allow more children to attend.
Our hope is to be able to offer this experience to as many disabled children in the county as we possibly can. This is only possible through the coordination of county resources and the generous support we receive from so many.
Andy Boe of Drain is the Special Education director for the Douglas Education Service District in Roseburg. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.