The Arc of Effingham hosted its third summer camp the last two weeks of June at Marlow Elementary School.
Nina Dasher, the president of the Arc of Effingham, said the theme for this year’s camp is “We Help Each Other Learn Skills,” or WHEELS for short.
“So with the wheels theme we’ve brought in race cars and motorcycles, and we’re using those types of art projects,” she said. “We’re doing black and white checkered placemats, we’re painting flags and we’re doing a scrapbook everyday.”
She said the songs the children are singing revolve around wheels and cars.
“Inclusion is our main focus,” Dasher said. “This is basically reversed inclusion because we set the stage for our disabled children, and then we bring the typical children in. That’s why we’re inside because our children need air-conditioning. We also need wheelchair accessible accommodations which the schools all have, so the schools have been gracious enough for three year to let us use the school and we prefer that because it is accessible.”
Dasher said this year they have added a moms’ room.
“This is a bonus for the moms because parents of children with disabilities are under stress all the time, so we’re trying to figure out a way to make it convenient for them to distress a little bit,” she said.
The children at the camp participated in arts and crafts, worked on a scrapbook, watched movies that revolve around the theme of the camp and had gym time.
“The goal of our camp is to give children with disabilities a typical camp environment with the typical kids, and I think it works pretty well,” Dasher said. “We do have a need for more volunteers.”
“We do it the same two weeks every year so that people can sort of plan ahead,” Dasher said. “It’s the last two week in June every year. The school staff has been very supportive.”
She said the camp has children ranging in age from kindergarten through high school.
“Art, music and drama is just what brings us all together, but our goal is socialization in an inclusive environment,” Dasher said.
The Arc of Effingham is affiliated with the Arc of Georgia and the Arc of the U.S.
“People with disabilities are sort of set apart from the rest of the community,” Dasher said. “That’s one thing. The Arc of Georgia and the Arc of the U.S. we have to be a partnership with all the community and that’s where the inclusion comes in. We have to have the community working with us. Otherwise we can’t do what we need to do alone.”
Arc of Effingham was formed four years ago because, Dasher said, there were no summer services and there was no one to speak up for them.
“Our advocacy voice was not heard until we became organized and incorporated,” she said. “Just finally taking the step to be formalized did make a big difference because I’ve been advocating for years. My little girl is 16, and I’ve been advocating personally, but I was not a group, so once we became a group, people started listening.”
The Arc camp is open to all children with disabilities and the children of families who are Arc members did not pay to go to camp, Dasher said. Membership is $20 a year.
“There are no indoor summer activities for children with disabilities, and so my child’s need for that is what prompted it,” she said. “There are so many things our kids can’t do. This just makes it so nice for them.”
Dasher said the monthly meetings are about to change locations. Arc members have been meeting at Baibry’s, but the meetings will be moved to Eden and will be the first Thursday of the month at noon.
“We have regular members, we have corporate members,” Dasher said. “We want anybody who is interested in helping people with disabilities to be a member.”
Dasher said the Arc is searching for more funding.
“We need more funding so that we can serve more children,” she said. “We have fundraisers and we have a grassroots Arc grant, and we’ve got donations, and then we charge a small fee of $35 per week per family. Our budget’s less than $4,000.”
For information about the Arc of Effingham or to become a member call Nina Dasher at 748-4415.