The Bubel/Aiken Foundation’s (TBAF) Summer Camp Program, a program that brings the summer camp experience to children with disabilities, is entering its third year and expanding its scope, reach and services. The Camp gives children with developmental disabilities the same experience as those without disabilities. Children with disabilities and their typical peers come together to participate in typical camp activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, community service, physical fitness and more.
The goal of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation’s Summer Camp Program is to bring programs of inclusion to organizations that serve children nationwide. In 2004, the inclusive Summer Camp experience for children with and without disabilities was instituted by the Foundation in collaboration with the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, the West Cabarrus YMCA, and the A.E. Finley YMCA in North Raleigh. “We started with a two week program serving children 5-8 years old. The second year we served the same programs but expanded to serving children up to 13 years of age and extended the camp session from two to four weeks, said Kristy Barnes, TBAF Chief Operating Officer. “These first summer camps paved the way for more national initiatives.”
From dream, to pilot program, to the development of a fully applicable product, the TBAF Summer Camp Program has become a viable option for YMCAs and children’s organizations nationwide who seek the ideal of becoming inclusive.
“Through the pilot program phase, we developed a model that really works. This year Summer Camp sites will have tested, successful, comprehensive curriculum supported through special education training. We’re also working to expand our age reach with a preschool pilot program we’re supporting this year at the Hobart YMCA (Indiana),” said Barnes. “Our goal is to implement our Summer Camp Program nationwide.”
TBAF will be promoting the Summer Camp program through a national conference series. In March, they presented at the National Conference on Physical Activity for the Exceptional Individual. They are also slated for The YMCA of the USA’s International Conference July 28 and 29, where the Foundation will present its For All—Inclusion in Your YMCA workshop. The workshop will focus on embracing the philosophy of inclusion and what the YMCA’s role could be. The Foundation will introduce its Summer Camp curriculum and showcase its current partnership with several YMCAs throughout the country. An opportunity to discuss inclusion in all areas and programs of the YMCA will be provided along with resources to help make inclusion at their area YMCA a reality.
“Another way we are promoting our Summer Camp is by inviting child care directors and teachers to come to observe the Camp in operation. When people see all of the children together, see children embracing each other for their abilities, they cannot leave without wanting to make it happen in their own facility. They will see children inspired by possibilities that they never knew possible,” said Barnes.
The Bubel/Aiken Foundation provides the YMCA summer camps with the resources they need including camp curriculum, special education training and funding.