Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fun Time at Summer Camp; Disabilities Don't Matter at Marywood

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fun Time at Summer Camp; Disabilities Don't Matter at Marywood

Article excerpt

Byline: Ann Luce, Staff writer

Rapper 50 Cent's music played in the background while campers tidied their bunks. Chatterings about going to the pool, performances at the talent show and how their cabin could win the coveted title of "honor cabin" for a day were some of the side conversations, as pillows were fluffed and blankets folded.

It seemed like any other summer camp -- except for one stark difference.

Camp Promise at Marywood in Switzerland is for youths with disabilities.

"It [Camp Promise] feels like home to me," said Jason Hamilton, 25, who has attended the camp as a camper and a buddy for the last nine years. "It is a great organization for people like us to be more active. I have a disability. I have Down syndrome. I get to go and do new things, fun things. At the end of the week, I don't want to leave."

Not wanting to leave camp seems to be the general consensus of most campers, according to Patrick Kennedy, head of the disabilities ministry for the diocese of St. Augustine.

And who can blame them, he says, with activities such as dancing, magic shows, horseback riding, boating, fishing, face painting and arts and crafts.

Camp costs about $70,000 to run each summer. Though tuition for each child is about $450, Kennedy said 50 to 60 percent receive scholarships. At maximum, he said, most families will pay $150 for one week of camp.

"This is the perk," Kennedy said. "We have so much fun, and the best part of the job is to make sure the kids have fun."

This year marks the 21st year for Camp I am Special, Camp Promise and Camp Care. Camp I am Special is geared toward younger children aged 6 to 13; Camp Promise is for youths 14 to 25, and Camp Care is for people with severe disabilities.

Disabilities for each camp can range from autism or cerebral palsy to spina bifida and mental retardation. Most of the children and teens have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A registered nurse is on duty at all times during the weeklong camps to dispense medicine and to help in case of an emergency. …

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