Camp for Autistic Children Exemplifies Y's Mission
By Renee Burrell
Photo courtesy of Suncoast YMCA
The YMCA's Mission is: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.
Locally, their mainstreaming camp for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Camp Coast (Children on the Autism Spectrum Together), is a mission accomplished, thankfully, through donations from the community.
Camp COAST provides a summer day camp for ASD children that allows them to feel comfortable in a safe, fun, and nurturing environment. One of the camp's goals is to engage the children through social interaction via "good old-fashioned fun" like sailing, horseback riding, swimming, creating arts and crafts, playing sensory games, and going on field trips.
The campers are selectively paired with caring, teenaged Counselors in Training (CITs) to assist them with social and recreational experiences. A group of CITs at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center last week reported that some of the campers in their charge, who weren't talking at the start of camp, are now and some are even singing. Others they said, who were afraid of animals before camp, can't wait to mount a horse when the group goes horseback riding.
CIT Kathy Rocco said, "I like helping these kids do what normal kids do, but in their own way." CIT Sami Swift said, "It feels really great to watch the campers accomplish goals and to see them have an awesome summer."
Over one million Americans are living with the effects of autism spectrum disorder. According to the Autism Society, the disorder is "a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others…defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a 'spectrum disorder' that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees."
It's not known what the cause is for the increase in children with autism, so awareness and funding for programs is crucial, especially since The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alarming report last year, concluding that the prevalence of autism has risen to "1 in every 110 births in the United States and almost 1 in 70 boys."
Vickie Shire, Program Director at YMCA of the Suncoast-Clearwater Branch said, "It's through community donations that we can offer a quality program for our youth that are on the spectrum. This year we have not met our goal and still have quite a bit to raise in order to continue the program."
Camp COAST is funded through private donations to the YMCA. All donations received for Camp COAST go directly to pay for the program costs. To donate or for more information, call (727) 467-9622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Renee Burrell
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