Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences

Director of Thesis

Amanda Polson

First Reader

Mike McCall

Abstract

Currently, there are very few summer camps for children with special needs. I co-founded a special needs camp called Camp Chip and Love for children who have mild physical and mental disabilities. The camp was created to help give special needs children the opportunity to become involved in a summer camp and introduce them to golf, tennis, and arts and crafts. Starting a camp is very challenging. I was responsible for ordering supplies, t-shirts, trophies, obtaining medical releases for the participants, and registration of campers. I made this camp free of charge by going to different corporations and asking for donations. Medical waivers were made and an online webpage has been created.

I plan on discussing the process of creating a camp along with the biological science surrounding certain disabilities that I have come to see at this camp. As co-founder of a special needs camp, I have been able to experience the joy and happiness that many children with Down syndrome, autism, and other conditions exhibit when a task is completed.

Through this experience, I have met children with different disabilities such as speech delay, motor skills impairment, and eye disorders. Being involved in this camp has taught me the extent to which children with special needs have fun and fulfilling lives. The camp offered opportunities to build social skills and created an environment where they would succeed. It humbled me and instilled in me a sense of compassion and love for individuals with delayed cognitive skills and physical limitations. The smallest acts of kindness can bring a smile to a child's face. The simple joy that they experienced while participating in the camp's activities inspired me to want to unconditionally help others. I have learned compassion, leadership, and respect through the entirety of this camp’s making.

I have included a reflection of my time while I have been directing this camp. In my thesis, I will discuss where I see the direction of the special needs camp in the future. After reflecting on the past experiences, I researched how children develop their cognitive skills and investigated how people with special needs develop socially and behaviorally.

Ultimately, I hope to create a camp that will continue long after I have moved away to obtain other life goals. I hope that through this project, I can increase the resources I currently have and enhance them so that more people will be reached. I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue such a great goal and am excited to see the numerous lives that it will change, hopefully, for the better.

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