MI AG Bell Summer Camp 2013
By Summer Camp Director, Katie McHugh
“We play games, have camp fires, hold animals in the nature center, make tents, eat good food, ride horses, discover nature, shoot pellet guns, play sports, ride on boats, swim in a lake, and make lots of new friends. That is why camp is fun!” wrote Elijah Woodall. “You can climb the rock wall; a big tower you climb up. You can also do archery with a bow”, wrote his sister, Elisah Woodall. This summer, Elijah and Elisha spent two weeks at the YMCA Storer camp in Jackson.
MI AG Bell provided scholarships to 13 students who are deaf/hard of hearing this year for the opportunity to attend summer camp. The YMCA Storer camp provides students who are deaf/hard of hearing with the opportunity to be fully mainstreamed into the camp experience with typical peers. MI AG Bell provides staff to the camp setting in order to train the YMCA camp staff on hearing loss, troubleshoot the students’ equipment such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, provide daily language based activities for the students, and to assist where needed throughout the two weeks of camp.
For many of the students, this was their first camp experience and they were able to learn and participate in activities they had never done before. Brooklyn DeRyckere wrote, “I loved the rock wall because I went all the way to the top. My family will be happy for me because I was on the top!” Zachary Wiley was also able to climb the rock wall as well as ride a horse and shoot an arrow; he expressed such excitement for the opportunity to do these things. Austin Keys wanted to tell other students that they should come to camp next year because it is guaranteed to be a lot of fun. Austin was able to learn a new game called Ga-Ga ball and take horseback riding lessons.
Other students have been returning to camp year after year and have grown to appreciate the friendships and relationships they are able to form while at camp. Darionna Bell has returned to camp for four years now and enjoys being able to make lots of new friends and sleep in a cabin. She can easily describe the schedule at camp and wrote about the variety of delicious food options campers have during each meal time. Darionna also enjoys “saska,” which is the name for the daily rest period at camp. This is the time the AG Bell campers participate in language based activities as well as have some time to rest in their cabins. Darionna often used saska time to write letters home to her family. Cameron Wells is also a return camper who is looking forward to participating in the “CIT” program to be a “counselor in training” at camp in the next few years. Cameron wrote, “The most fun thing I did at camp was go really fast in a sailboat and a kayak on the lake. I also liked making a lot of new friends and learning about them. I hope to come again next year and I hope more people do to!”
Overall, camp is an experience like none other for our students with hearing loss and provides an enormous amount of responsibility, language, and self-advocacy, along with the fun filled activities, meaningful relationships, and leadership opportunities that this year’s campers described. MI AG Bell continually looks forward to providing scholarships for students to attend summer camp and hopes you will consider the opportunity to share this article with other students who are deaf or hard of hearing in hopes that we will see them at the YMCA Storer camp in July 2014!