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Roundin up a good time at Camp Hollywood
0604 Camp Hollywood cowgirl
Cowgirl Katie West, 5, shows off her skills in front of the Camp Hollywood mural painted by the campers and the camp counselors. - photo by Photo by Calli Arnold

The Arc of Effingham will “round up” its two-week summer program, Camp Hollywood, today with a Western-themed song and dance performance for parents and friends at Springfield Elementary School.

The camp mixes children with physical and mental disabilities with typical children their ages to tap into their creative ardors. With help from adult and youth volunteers, the children, who range in age from 5-22, are able to paint, play, make crafts, make scrapbooks, sing and dance.

This is the sixth year of Camp Hollywood. Nina Dasher, who is president of the Arc of Effingham and in her third year as a coordinator at LIFE, started Camp Hollywood as something for her disabled granddaughter to do in the summer with other children.

The kids really enjoy having a large space to move around and making new friends. The leaders enjoy spending time with the children and learning how to interact with them.

“This is what (one of) my goals is: to educate enough of these young people that are gifted in a lot of different ways to go on and care for people with disabilities,” Dasher said.  

This was the first year that young adults with disabilities, such as Heather Johnson, 21, were able to come in as leaders and help with the smaller children. She will sing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” for parents at the performance.

“I’ve made quite a lot of friends here,” Johnson said. “It’s just fun and I can get creative.”

There were 23 children this year, 11 of whom have disabilities, and 10 camp counselors along with the many volunteers who filtered in and out. LIFE, which has always been a big supporter of Camp Hollywood, had volunteers from its staff work with the children as well. Kenneth Martin, a painter by profession after an accident confined him to a wheelchair, taught the children basic art techniques and Denise Howard, who is blind, read to the kids from a Braille book.   

“Our mission is to include people with disabilities in the community; that’s what we are all about,” Dasher said.