Special Kids Need Special Counselors

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessica Abel

Several local teen camp counselors are being counted on to make this summer a memorable one for some special kids.

Every Monday through Thursday, about 45 campers with disabilities are joined by about 25 teen counselors for the Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County day camp. The program, which is an extension of the park districts in Mundelein, Vernon Hills, Libertyville, Indian Creek and Lake Zurich, is open to special students of all ages who reside in those areas.

The campers, who range in age from 3 to 18 years old, spend their days creating arts and crafts projects, playing games indoors and outdoors, making food, swimming and taking field trips.

"They're great kids. No one knows how much love they have to give, even though they can be little devils," joked counselor Christine Jones, 16, of Libertyville.

Hawthorn Middle School in Vernon Hills is the "home base" for the camp, even though they travel outside the school regularly. Divided into groups by age and ability level, the campers have gone to such places as Brookfield Zoo, Great America and the Zion Powerhouse.

Most of the counselors are high school and college students. The counselors heard about the camp from a variety of sources, from baby-sitting jobs to special "integrated" physical education classes in their high schools. Others have never had experience working with disabled children.

"We have some really good teen counselors. Sometimes when you have certain teens, they don't know what to do with kids like these, but they've jumped in and are having a lot of fun," program director Denise Cortesi said. "It takes a very mature person to do this. It's nice to have teens in the program, and they do a great job."

In order to do this job, at times it takes extra research for some counselors.

"I've gotten books out of the library to find ideas for arts and crafts. It takes extra hours, but it's worth it," said counselor Kristin Mosko, 18, of Vernon Hills. …