EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s the best week of the summer for the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society in Effingham County.
Camp Buddy gives children with developmental difficulties five days of activity and learning.
“They do not realize that we’re working them to death during the week."
That’s the whole idea of Camp Buddy - where new lessons, skill retention, and intense therapy are hidden inside what appear to be fun activities for children with disabilities.
“We have physical and occupational therapy and speech therapy, and then we do a cognition portion of it where we work with a special education teacher who helps us with that. The intensity is what makes the difference, and so we see great, great success,” said Melinda Hawkins, Occupational Therapist who is working at Camp Buddy.
The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society is in its eleventh year of the week-long camp in Effingham County. They’ll have others in Chatham County later this summer - disguising work with fun and continuing the activities the mostly elementary and middle school students get during the school year.
“Basically, we just take the challenges that they are faced with and figure out ways to help them meet those challenges."
“They are working not only their brains, but their bodies, their handwriting, and they get help with social skills, which is really big,” said Wendy Fears, whose daughter, Kristin, is attending Camp Buddy.
There are physical challenges to work on motor skills and other activities for imagination.
“My favorite activity to do is art,” said camper, Ella Marchese.
The group setting creates another highlight for the campers.
“Hanging out with my best buddies.”
Along with the running and jumping and work that looks like play, each camper will make a power point presentation about themselves to the group by the end of the week, which demonstrates everyone’s individual progress.
“What gives us such great joy is to see on Monday - what they couldn’t do - come Friday, they’re able to do. So, that’s really, really exciting."
“They really show you how you can overcome things a lot. They get such pride in what they do that it really inspires you,” said volunteer counselor, Bethany Dyals.
“Camp Buddy is their favorite week of the summer, for sure. They’re always asking when Camp Buddy is going to come up.”
College students, like Bethany Dyals, have volunteered as counselors at Camp Buddy every year, and some, also like Bethany, have gone on to study special education and now work with the developmentally disabled.