A summer day camp held last week by the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre (FVCDC) in Abbotsford gave kids with special needs a chance to have fun while bonding with their peers.
The camp ran each day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Terry Fox Elementary and involved 14 participants, who were supported by approximately 30 volunteers.
Jessica Jessamine and Mike VanderGaag – both University of the Fraser Valley students who were therapy aides during the week – said the goal of the camp is for the participants to have fun.
“(It’s about) having fun, learning through fun, playing through fun,” VanderGaag said.
The camp has been running annually for several years, and the kids who attend have a variety of challenges, including physical and cognitive disabilities.
“Some have anxiety, some have hip dysplasia, some are refugees, some are Aboriginal, some have autism,” VanderGaag said.
The kids start off the day with a group yoga session and then move into one-on-one occupational, physical or speech therapy sessions.
Afternoon activities include visits with puppies, painting, crafts, adaptive baseball, and baking and decorating cookies.
Jessamine said the week provides an opportunity for social interaction and for the kids to enjoy a camp experience, which they otherwise might not get a chance to do.
“This is a place they can feel safe and just be themselves and interact with others that are like them, so it’s really, really fun for them,” she said.
The volunteers who are paired with the participants are as young as 10 years old, and some are previous campers themselves.
Also participating are university students, like Jessamine and VanderGaag, who are interested in careers working with children with special needs.
During the week, they are mentored by FVCDC therapists, gaining valuable experience for their future endeavours.
It’s a win-win for everyone, VanderGaag said.
“The camp, we set it up for the kids and we set it up for how much we can do for them, but they do so much more for us,” he said.
Jessamine described the camp as “super fun and chaotic, but in the best way possible.”
“I think every kid leaves here asking to come back the next day, which is our ultimate goal,” she added.
Visit fvcdc.org for more information.