Camp Special Time, a day for special needs children

16 Oct 2010 | Lance Cpl. Barrera

The day was filled with sounds of laughter during Camp Special Time, A Day at the Farm, a full day and overnight camp focused on providing respite for parents of special needs children.

Parents dropped off their children at the Stone Street Youth Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Oct. 16, for a day full of fun and a night of bedtime stories and movies.

Students from Coastal Carolina Community College and University of North Carolina Wilmington accompanied the children. They helped the children with various projects, looked after them and tended to their needs.

“I volunteered to be here as part of my Anatomy and Physiology class at Coastal Carolina Community College,” said Christian Cueras, a camp volunteer. “I think this is great. I heard that before, special needs children didn’t have places like this where they could meet other children and just be themselves.”

Throughout the day, children participated in many activities including blowing bubbles, flying kites, petting farm animals, riding ponies and playing in their very own bounce house.

The theme for the camp was “a day at the farm” and the Exceptional Family Member Program followed through on the theme.

“Possumwood Acres will be here. We have a petting zoo and ponies the children can ride in the back, and they can take a picture with a farm background when they first get here,” said Maria Ready, director for the EFMP. “When it comes close to bedtime, we will read them animal and farm stories and afterward, put on a farm themed movie, maybe let them watch ‘Babe’.”

Camp Special Time is held three times a year during the months of October, February and April. The October and April camps are overnight trips while the February one is just an all day event.

Ready said the camp was started because it was hard for parents of special needs children to find babysitters so they could have time for themselves. With Camp Special, the parents could ensure their children were in safe hands.

“This is fun,” said Johnathon Rice, a student at UNCW and a volunteer at Camp Special. “So far, I’ve taken my buddy, Nathan, face painting, made him a crown and pet the farm animals.”

Many students volunteered as part their college classes but some got a bit more out of it.

“This is something good to do, and it looks good when they see that you went out into the community and helped out,” said Rice.

Currently, Camp Special can take care of 20 children for overnight stays, and Ready said the day camp in February will be able to allow more kids to stay and interact.

“Camp Special is very popular with the families, and any family with a child enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program can join,” said Ready. “It gives the parents some time to themselves for a while, however, the seats for Camp Special go fast.”

Registration for the next Camp Special starts the second week of November. Parents who wish to register their children must visit the Russell Marine and Family Services Center, or call they may call Ellen Poirier at 451-4394.