YMCA and Camp Exploration host special needs kids
Kids with special needs never have to sit out of the activities offered up at Camp Exploration.
Four Cleveland County special education teachers came together this year to create the week-long summer camp for their students who don’t typically get the summer camp experience.
“We knew through working with parents that there was a need for something for our kiddos,” Stephanie Patterson said. “There are camps offered all the time for typically developing children, but there’s not anything here for our population of children with special needs.”
Patterson, Rachel Bell, Becky Seidel and Rachel Bye coordinated the camp with help from the Dover YMCA. They also received some help from two occupational therapy students from Cabarrus Community College and student volunteers from Shelby, Crest and Burns high schools.
With several experts on board, Camp Exploration aims to adapt to the needs of the kids who sign up.
Where a regular day camp may not be able to adapt every activity to allow children with special needs to participate, no need is too big for the new camp’s staff.
“We want everybody to be included in everything,” Bell said. “It takes a certain skill set to be able to offer that.”
As a young teen, Patterson volunteered at a vacation Bible school at Eastside Baptist Church aimed at individuals with special needs. It was an experience that steered her onto the path of becoming an exceptional children’s teacher.
But that was also the last time Patterson heard of a local camp being offered for kids with special needs.
For years she dreamed of starting her own camp. She found that Rachel Bell had the same mission in her heart. And with cooperation of fellow teachers and the YMCA, they were able to finally bring the idea to fruition.
Camp Exploration takes on a new theme each day and gives campers the opportunity to participate in science exploration activities touching on subjects like bugs and birds, outer space, lights and color.