This is a future endeavor for me once I graduate with my bachelors degree. For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about special needs and disabilities, probably because It is what I know. At age 11, I started attending a Summer day-camp for special needs called Camp We Can Do. (I have previously mentioned my experiences at Camp we Can do- See older blog post titled: “Disability Journey: Camp We Can Do- My heaven on Earth!!” It was a great experience back in the day, but sadly it has become basically “a joke” and not what it once was. However, it has influenced me and was a huge part of what made me into what I am today. I decided to take the things I liked/loved about camp, the things I wanted to change, my ideas I’d often proposed to staff while as a camper, etc. and make it into my own.
Here is my proposal:
Intro: Growing up, I was always self-conscious, even though I had friends in mainstream education, I still felt like an outsider and that my “normal,” friends couldn’t relate to me at times. I didn’t like sleeping away from home and I was overly self-conscious about what I wore or any risks of being mocked/bullied. The answer to my confidence issues was a Special Needs Camp in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was a day camp all summer, called Camp We Can Do.
Camp we Can Do, took children and young adults (ages 5-23) of all special needs. Every day they did some type of arts and crafts, cooking/baking in kitchen, some type of sports, morning exercises/stretches and a walk around the track, a group activity- whether it be playing out in the park area, we would go swimming on Fridays, and bowling on Tuesdays. There would be one “Big Field Trip” to places like NASA, Kemah Boardwalk, NOLA Aquarium/IMAX, etc. Sometimes we’d have small field trips like Candyland cottage sweetshop, the beach in lake Charles, Incredible Pizza/GattiTown when it was around, children’s museum, etc. They would also do at least one or two talent shows where kids could do karaoke, dancing, or whatever. We were encouraged to explore outside of our comfort zones. We were held accountable for our actions despite having disabilities/special needs.
Camp We Can Do was great back in the day, but now it isn’t what it used to be, but has inspired me and was a big part of who I am, that I want to build on the ideas from the Camp and expand into my Own.
I also collaborated with another former camper: Bailey Castille and will include her ideas as well.
· Camp all summer long (as soon as school lets out) and during school (after school and on weekends)
· Frequent Field trips
· Rotation sign ups (choices like electives)
· Separate cooking and baking into two separate rotations
· Life skills- Cooking, shopping, chores, laundry, etc.= independence skills
· Pet therapy
· Music therapy
· Writing therapy
· Theatre therapy- dancing, acting, film
· Art therapy- digital or nondigital
· Crafting therapy
· Gardening therapy
· Camper group compatibility= personality questionnaires to avoid cliques and fights
· Camper input= suggestion boxes, help with shirt design, theme, etc.
· Girl activities (girl scouts, tea parties, dress up/fashion show, etc.) “girls’ day”/ Boy’s activities “boys’ day” = sports, boy scouts, etc.) —***Sign up/optional***
· Reward/incentive program
· Videos in the finale DVD slideshow
· Snacks for children who forgot theirs
· Camp Store= “Camp Bucks” for good behavior/reward incentive, can spend at Camp Store
· Train older responsible campers to be future staff (Mentor Program) – Will hire future campers or let them volunteer****
· DIY Craft Day- Choices
· Weekly Newsletter/Mail for campers and family/ Calendar for month
Camp Field Trip Ideas:
· Art, history, or science museums
· Performing theatre shows
· Avery Island
· Sea World
· Dave and Busters
· Chuckie E. Cheese
· Cicci’s pizza
· Campgrounds- (KOA, Cajun Campground, Poches, Cajun Palms, etc.)
· Candyland Cottage
· Children’s Museums
· USS KIDD
· Blue Bayou/ Dixie Landin
· Kart Ranch
· KEMAH Boardwalk
· EPIC Fun Center
· Surge Entertainment Center
· Jump Zone
· Sky Zone
· NOLA Aquarium/Zoo/Butterfly House/IMAX
o =====Life Skill trip ideas:
o Restaurants/bakeries/etc.- (Targils –Cooking classes? Deanos—Pizza cooking demo? Old tyme grocery—po’boy making demo? Etc.)
o Grocery shopping
o Shopping= malls, recreational
o The Arc
o UL Life Tour
o UL/ LSU/ LSUE/ SLCC/etc. Campus tours
o APARTMENT TOURS
o DREAMS Foundation
· Horseback riding
· 4wheeler/ATV riding
· Movie Theaters
· ***Farther trips: St Louis, Mississippi, Arkansas, Disney World, etc.***
School Time Ideas:
· Fall Bonfire
· Fall Harvest Fair/carnival
· Participate in community= parades, downtown markets, etc.
· Dances (older than 10+) = Mock homecomings, Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, Mardi gras balls, (Mock debutant balls type things), Proms
· Parties (any age) = Halloween, Christmas, new year’s, valentines, Mardi gras, easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, birthdays**
· Movie day= campers vote on movie to watch either owned or go to theatre.
· Skating Rink Night or Midnight Bowling
· Dress up tea party/ Etiquette for girls’ women, or fashion show/makeover—***sign up—optional***
· Sports Fitness Day or scouts or 4wheelers-mudridding or fishing or something- guys day—****sign up —optional***
· Jean day $1
· Bible Study
· Talent Shows
· Art or cooking/baking or crafting day (can even be woodworking crafts) or gardening
Last Day of Camp/Fun Day ideas:
· Balloon artist
· Carnival/fair games
· Face painting
· Petting zoo
· Fun jump
· Water balloons/sprinklers
· Ice cream/snow cones
· Bonfire with smores?
· Talent show time
· Cool down area for meltdowns
· Staff to be tested Emotionally and background checks- No drugs/alcohol, no violence charges, no sex crimes
· Not a daycare- must be potty trained or have an aid/caregiver
· Have talks involving themes of:
· Include “mainstreamed” (non-special needs) children/young adults?
· Sleep away camp vs. Day camp? (Maybe make it optional)
· Bonfires with smores if sleep away camp
What the Camp Offers:
· Crafting (including woodworking, working with recycled materials, etc.)
· (possibly) Sewing= sewing, crocheting, embroidery, etc.
· Photo/Film (how to handle cameras, etc.)
· Sports and fitness
· Bowling (weekly)
· Swimming (weekly)
· Horseback Riding?
· Creative writing= short stories, poetry, whatever.
· Fashion (design, sewing, etc.)?
· Gardening and horticulture
· Religion/Theology/VBS/bible study
· Morning exercises/stretches and walk track
· Weekly talent shows
· Learning life skills, confidence and how to love yourself, making friendships, etc. ***
· No profanity (goes for everyone- staff included)
· Respect all property of the camp (“you destroy it, you pay for it.”)
· Wear camp shirts on all outings, as well as name tags, and stay with your group/staff
· Pay ahead of time for trips (will not accept “day of payments”)
· Treat each other and staff with kindness and respect:
o Be helpful
o Be kind
o Tell if you have a problem (do not handle it yourself)
o No stealing
o No fighting
o No arguing/back talk/disrespect to the staff
o Tell a staff before you just walk off
o Follow all directions/instructions
o Label all your belongings- if not labeled and gets lost or stolen, not responsible.
o Only time electronics/phones/etc. are allowed: Morning before camp starts, after lunch (quiet time), and Snack time, and Nighttime before bed (if sleep away camp)
Skills/ Life skills taught and offered (whatever able and under supervision):
· Grocery shopping/ Recreational shopping
· Making beds
· Library- getting library card, checking out books, etc.
· Teach how to take public transportation
· Social skills?
· Outdoor work- cutting grass, spraying, weeding, etc.
· Washing dishes/load dishwasher/putting dishes away
· Loading laundry washer/dryer, folding, and saving clothes
· Setting a table
· Putting leftovers away in fridge/freezer
· Writing letters
· Making routines (to do lists, etc.)
· How to fundraise/marketing
· Counting and managing money (budgeting, rolling coins, etc.)
· Try before saying “I can’t” = “Yes I can!”
· Life puts pressure, pressure makes you tough= Diamond tough!
· You are only as limited as you see yourself= don’t put yourself in a box of limitations
· Life has obstacles, but they can be overcome= just find a different path!
· Everyone has a different path and journey- don’t try to be like everyone else= being you is Beautiful= Be You tiful!
· You are a diamond, don’t let the world dim your sparkle and shine
· You are a star, don’t dim your light
· You must train hard to be victorious= it is hard, but well worth it!
· Life is a journey
· You are from Louisiana. You are proud Cajuns or LSU tigers. In Louisiana, we don’t back down from a challenge, we grab hold of that challenge, wrestle with it until we eventually conquer it!
· Sell plate lunches
· Garage/yard sales
· Benefit days (Fundraisers)
· Go Fund Me/PayPal/etc.
· Bake sales/Lemonade sales
· Sales by “campers” (Interact and sale their cooked/baked/created/ or grown items)
· Community day- set up booths and talk about and ask for donations (have campers help)
Each Camper gets (with admission):
· Rubber/jelly bracelet
· $5 in “Camp Bucks”
Guest Speaker/Guest ideas:
· First responders (Police, firemen, ambulance, etc.)
· Eric Williams “Guns down,” chess spokesperson
· Out of state people: Ali McManus, Madelyn Hubbs, Katie Ladlie, Mia Williams, etc.
· UL Life/ Disability office
· Librarians to come read to them
· Famous locals: Drew Brees, Dev. Henderson, Sean Payton, Coach O, Lauren Daigle, Hunter Hayes, John Morgan (Ragin Cajun comedian), etc.
· Local artists and musicians- Jaxon Meche (music), Eric Gautreaux, Lindy and Matt/One trick pony (Music), Whitney Marks (art), Emily Ortego (Music)
· Roni Dubroc – about the Baton Rouge thing?
· Local cooks/bakers/etc. to offer class
· Girls’ and boys’ clubs?
· Scouts of America?
Camp Name Ideas:
· Camp Able
· Camp Ability
· Camp Potential
· Camp Expectation
· Camp Destination Expectation
· Camp Equality
· Camp Inspirations
· Camp Victory/Victorious
· Camp Glorious Journey
· Camp Cajun Crew
· Camp Conquer!
· Camp United Hearts
· Camp Pure Unity
· Camp Utopia
People to Talk to for input, etc.:
· Dreams foundation
· Beacon Club (ULL)
· UL Life program and office of disabilities
· Dr. Beasley (UL)
· Lion’s camp
· Autism Societies
· Families helping Families
· Bambi Polotzola
· Laci Polotzola
· Robyn Blackwell
· State office of disabilities
· Derrick McBride- One-piece Missing Foundation (Autism)
· Boys and Girls Clubs
· United Way
· Church Camps
· Dr. Donna wadsworth
Things need to do:
· Present proposal
· Community day- go out in community to present my proposal idea, give info about why this would be a great thing, etc. maybe have some special needs kids help…?
· Find sponsors
· Find a location
· Get funding
· Look at liability insurance, health care, health department assistance (red cross)
· Look at buses and transportations services
· Vocational ed. department or vocational tech schools support or assistance Rural health and rural education programs and grants**
· Figure out budget and admission cost
· Figure out if going to provide lunch or go to a school (like camp did)
· Find and hire staff (including health care- nurses, lifeguards, etc.)
· Figure out lesson plans for weeks/ activities
· Game tables (foosball, air hockey, pinball)
· Art and craft supplies (Crayons, Markers, Paints, Construction Paper, Cardstocks, glitter/glitter glues, hot glue/hot glue sticks, cricut materials, paint brushes, scissors (kid safety scissors and regular scissors), chalk, pom poms, pipe cleaners, color pencils, pencils, pens, paper, jewelry beading and thread, friendship bracelet thread, duct tape/washi tapes, etc.
· Games (Board Games), sports equipment (balls, bats, gloves, racquets, etc.), jump ropes, bubbles, water balloons, sprinklers, squirt guns, puzzles, etc.
· Pool toys, goggles, sunscreens, pool noodles, inflations, kickboards, floaties, etc.
· Snacks (drinks, chips, snack cakes, sandwich fixings, burger/hot dog fixings, brownie mix, cake mixes, jellos, puddings, etc. kitchen stuff, popcorn, stuff for smores, BBQ, ice cream sundae fixings, stuff for homemade ice creams, stuff for homemade snow cones/slushies/popsicles, stuff for popcorn machine (kernels, salt, butter, oil, etc.), etc.)
· Books to put in our “corner library”
· Movies/DVDs for “Movie library”
· Fireworks (especially sparklers and “poppers”/” snappers”)
· Wood for bonfires, firepit
· BBQ Pit
· Hygiene stuff- deodorants, soap, toothpastes/toothbrushes, Listerine, floss, shampoo/conditioners, Kleenex, sanitizers, etc.
· First aid stuff- Neosporin’s, medications (Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, cough syrup, chloreseptic,) vapor rub, nose sprays, Band-Aids, ice packs, alcohol, peroxides, thermometers, heating pad, massagers, essential oils, etc.
· Mosquito and bug sprays
· Gardening supplies (seeds, bulbs, plants, soil, gardening tools and gloves, etc.)
· Disposable cameras
· Musical instruments (tambourines, guitars, ukeles, pianos/keyboards, triangles, maracas, dancing ribbons, etc.)
Campers are responsible for bringing:
· Snacks (will be provided if forgotten)
· Pillows/blanket for “quiet time” after Lunch (if going to lay down, if not bring book or some type of entertainment to keep quiet)
· Jackets (in case it is cold inside building), change of clothes for swimming days (towels, sunscreen, clothes, etc.), change of clothes if not fully potty trained, etc.
· Money (when= pay for trips)
· Any medication the camper is responsible for taking
· Green– the youngest group (needs most attention/supervision)- not based just on age, but also how much supervision they require, emotional outbursts, etc.
· Blue group– Second youngest group (still needs lot of supervision but not as much as green group)
· Red– Second oldest group- getting ready for the older group, somewhat responsible and have good emotional control (Pink/purple: “Red group” age but need more help/supervision)
· Yellow group– oldest group -somewhat responsible, “adults” of the campers (Orange: the “yellow group” age but need more help/supervision)