'Special Kids on Campus' opens three-week stay at Marietta College

"Special Kids on Campus," a new program for people with disabilities, began a three-week session Monday, July 18, at Marietta College's McDonough Center for Leadership and Business with an array of activities.

The program is co-sponsored by the McDonough Leadership Program and Washington County Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC). The program runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday through Aug. 5.

"This is a great opportunity for children with disabilities of Washington County to experience the great campus of Marietta College," said Dr. Bill Bauer, coordinator for activities. "A lot of the kids do not get the opportunity to experience what this town has to offer. They don't have the opportunity to participate in community activities."

Children with disabilities from ages 3-21 are participating in activities arranged by camp director Donna Murphy, who is a Marietta College alum. The camp is already at capacity with 50 children, along with 12 teachers and individual volunteers who accompany the children to the activities. "We are still accepting volunteers," said Murphy.

The children are divided into three different groups; ages 3-5, 5-9 and 10-21. On the opening day of the program children did arts and crafts --which included making tote bags and sand bottle art -- with their teachers and some volunteers.

"We give kids the opportunity to do different things around Marietta, interact with other children and enjoy their summer vacations," said Tiffany Elliott, a teacher at the camp and a 2005 graduate of Marietta College.

Throughout the week the camp will be all over Marietta, including a trip on the Valley Gem sternwheeler, bowling, swimming at the Marietta Family YMCA and Betsy Mills Club, a day at Marietta's Aquatic Center and Civitan Park, a visit to the pet store, and a ride on the trolley.

"(The first day) is mainly used to getting to know the children. This is the first time most of us have met any of them," said Jody Lewis, a teacher working with the 3-5 year old group.

New activities this year include a round of miniature golf and a visit to Lowe's garden center.

"Our main goal is to capitalize on this opportunity and make the children as independent as we can," Bauer said.

Murphy has been involved in this program for five years, since it started. This is her first year as the director. "We just want to promote a fun and safe atmosphere for the children and give them the opportunity to experience different things around town and also build friendships with the other children."

The program is completely funded through donations, which were down this year. Murphy said that is probably due to the floods of September and January, but some out-of-town field trips had to be cancelled.

"We completely understand and are not complaining, it actually works out, the kids can now experience things in town that they wouldn?t have been able to," Murphy said.

The ARC did receive help from Wendy's in Belpre (donated T-shirts), and the Ohio Department of Education summer food program (donated lunches each day).

The ARC, founded in 1950 is a national organization of and for people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities and their families. It is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for people with mental retardation and their families.

Bauer, also an assistant professor at Marietta College in the Masters of Education department, believes this would be the perfect experience for future teachers to get field experience.

"We have education majors volunteering through this three-week program. If we get the special education certificate, in the future this camp could be used for credited field experience for education majors seeking a certificate in special education," Bauer said.