Special needs kids get ready for camp - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Special needs kids get ready for camp

June 13, 2007

Bainbridge--The only place 18-year-old Erin King's classmates had ever seen her was in her wheelchair.  But on graduation day Erin shocked them by walking across the stage to get her diploma, with help from a walker.

She thanks her therapists for helping her pull it off.  "They're so caring and motivated," Erin says.

Erin is one of the patients that sparked the idea for Camp Joy three years ago, and she's gone every time.

Her physical therapist Allison Gibbs says, "kids with disabilities may not be as excited when the year come to an end like other children. Now they don't get to go to school, and they don't have the same opportunities to go horseback riding or swimming."

"They don't get to do anything that typically developing kids get to do, they don't get to play. Just because most places are not wheelchair or handicapped accessible to them," adds occupational therapist, Dameca Fillingame.

It's a day camp that runs two weeks during the summer.  Not only is it free for the kids, it provides them with tons of fun activities they wouldn't normally get to do.  "Some of these kids have never even seen a horse before. They have a little wheelchair ramp that they can ride up and get right on the horse. That's probably my favorite part" says Gibbs.

Erin likes it too, but she has a different favorite.  "Probably the swimming because it helps my muscles," she says.  Because the activities are not only fun, they're designed specifically to add to the children's therapy.

"There's been several studies done on horseback riding, and the movement that you get at the pelvis, horse's walking simulates gait, simulates actual walking," explains Gibbs.

A skill Erin's working hard to master. But she couldn't do it without the help of her therapists. "They help me live better and be more mobile," Erin says.

They hope the idea for their camp is one that will catch on.  "There's kids in need in all communities and they always need an avenue to be just a kid," Fillingame says.

And Camp Joy gives them just the place they can.  Camp Joy is for kids ages 5-18. In addition to horseback riding and swimming, campers will get to make arts and crafts, go bowling and go out to the movies.


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