NORTHWEST INDIANA: Day camp helped by grant from foundation involved with ‘American Idol’s’ Clay Aiken
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:14 AM CST
MARLENE A. ZLOZA
HOBART ; Youngsters just want to have fun, and that’s the goal of a new summer camp unveiled Wednesday by the Hobart Family YMCA and Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Indiana Inc. Funded with a $7,290 grant from The Bubel/Aiken Foundation in North Carolina, the pilot program will welcome preschool children of all abilities to a two-week day camp using all YMCA facilities, including the gym and swimming pool.
“This program promotes the inclusion of children with and without disabilities,” said Diane Bubel, spokeswoman for the foundation she founded with singer Clay Aiken of “American Idol” fame to create awareness about the diversity of individuals with disabilities.
Sharon Tarry, YMCA program director, asked the audience of more than 70 to “put on your imagination glasses” as she described a day camp filled with preschoolers playing with blocks and puzzles, writing letters to their parents about their experiences, eating healthy snacks, sharing laughter and songs and “involved to the limit of their ability in age-appropriate activities.”
Twenty campers, ages 3 to 5, including 10 children with disabilities, will attend from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on July 17 to 28, with staff members also serving as role models.
“ … We hope the children will discover they have more in common than differences,” said Michelle Higel, community relations coordinator for Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Indiana.
“This wonderful new partnership has the opportunity to impact childhoods and attitudes.”
Tarry said the Cerebral Palsy center in New Chicago will provide five staffers to supervise campers and train two YMCA staffers to work with children with disabilities.
Families will pay a $20 enrollment fee for a T-shirt, memory book and pizza and awards party, as well as a $60 camp registration fee.
Higel said the two United Way agencies hope to expand and continue the pilot program in future years with additional grants.
“This is not a special camp — there is no need to change the preschool camp the YMCA has already proven is successful,” Higel said. “This program will be everything a summer camp should be.”