With fall quickly approaching, it’s fun to reminisce about summer highlights. For some campers and counselors in Summit County, these 2017 memories will be of the inclusive summer camp fun they had. Kids of all abilities were welcomed at several area camps thanks to a new pilot program from Summit DD.
“It’s about shedding the fears,” Summit DD’s Assistant Director of Inclusion, Lynnette Klejka shared about the pilot program to support local Parks and Rec camps. “We wanted to ensure that all kids had opportunity.” She emphasized the importance of creating opportunities to include kids of all abilities in community programs.
Klejka and her team worked with local communities to provide extra support and guidance to their Parks and Rec programs. Using local college students pursuing careers in teaching or disability-related fields, Summit DD staff trained the students to support the camps. Summit DD helped them identify ways to support the special needs of some of the campers and still foster the care-free summer day camp atmosphere that all families seek.
“Having someone there to be a sounding board to get their perspective and advice is so valuable,” shared Matt Kress of Green Local Parks and Rec. The City of Green was one of a few local communities that participated in the pilot program. “We would tell [Summit DD] what we tried and where we were stuck.”
Kress explained that having a knowledgeable resource to coach them was invaluable. It helped to guide them and set them up for long term success. “[Our liaison] didn’t step in and do things for us,” he said. “She would watch us and then offer suggestions and critiques. And many of the suggestions were helpful for all kids, not just the campers with disabilities.”
“The biggest benefit is seeing kids of all abilities coming together to enjoy community programs – and just allowing kids to be together,” Klejka shared.
The pilot program worked with five organizations and more than 500 kids of all abilities throughout Summit County. Summit DD staff were available to each location as liaisons and trained the college students. The liaisons then checked in on the progress and offered assistance when the camps or college students encountered challenges.
Additionally, because Summit DD staff coached the programs, rather than simply adding an additional counselor, these camps learned valuable skills. With these new skills they now have the ability to use the techniques to foster inclusive camp programs for their communities next year and into the future.
Klejka shared that she was pleased with the results of the pilot program. “We’re looking forward to taking what we’ve learned and helping more communities include kids with special needs.”
The City of Green’s Parks and Rec camp agreed wholeheartedly on the success of the pilot. “I would say to try to be as inclusive as you can. Get as much training as you can,” Kress advised other communities thinking about participating next year. “Having this service come to the camp is better than trying to guess your way through it. You can avoid a lot of missteps if you have assistance.”
Want to be included?
Sign up for our eNewsletter and be the first to know about details for next year’s inclusive summer camps in your community.