Cervtar Day Camps,.
Travis Gougeon knows
ropes a: :enr.ar Day Carnps,
Special to the Jewish News
he's deaf, but that has nothing to
do with whether or not she can
act. So says Academy Award-
inning actress Marlee Matlin, who
s always believed that it's "ability that
attered — not disability."
The Jewish Community Center of
etropolitan Detroit takes the same
proach. This summer, after several
ars of including children with special
eds into Center Day Camps in West
oomfield, the program is expanding to
e JCC's Camp Discovery in Oak Park.
"We're very excited that Camp
scovery in Oak Park will be offering
ch a top-notch enhancement to our
mmer day camp program:' said Camp
scovery Director Judy Front. "The
mp Discovery professional team is
esently developing staff training with
e additional special needs component.
e goal is to augment the staff, camp-
ers' and families' experiences:'
For the first time, families in the Oak
Park area will be able to send children
with special needs to a regular summer
camp in their own neighborhood. As at
Center Day Camps, one-on-one counsel-
ors will be available for some children.
But often campers with special needs
are able to manage just fine within the
group thanks to a support plan imple-
mented by staff with the support of a
behavior and modifications specialist,
said Leah Delahanty of the JCC's Special
Such a specialist is able to supervise a
number of children, helping them over-
come any challenges of daily camp life.
This not only allows boys and girls with
special needs the chance to participate
in a traditional program, it also helps
them grow and become more indepen-
dent, Delahanty said.
Campers with special needs interested
in attending the JCC summer camps
must meet certain criteria; they cannot
be a danger to themselves or others,
they must be toilet trained or managed
by pull-ups or diapering, and because
a limited number of spots are available,
they must participate in a lottery.
Under the umbrella of KAT (Kids
All Together), the JCC special needs
program is open to anyone in the
community and to children and teens
pre-K through grade 9. In addition to
inclusion in regular camp, the West
Bloomfield program includes Teens All
Together (TAT), a transitions program
with a focus on working toward gaining
skills and preparing for a positive post-
secondary experience with vocational,
social experience and community living
One of the few of its kind in the
country, the Center Day Camps/Camp
Discovery inclusion provides benefits
not only to the children with special
needs but to the other campers as well,
"By offering inclusive programming,
we will lessen discrimination against
individuals with disabilities, and we will
become a positive example in the com-
munity that others will strive to liken
themselves to:' she said.
"As a result of inclusive programming
like Kids All Together, individuals of all
ages will begin a process of learning,
understanding and respect that has long
been a hurdle in communities. There is
no better way to teach tolerance than to
learn through interaction and exposure.
The goal of our programming is to give
an opportunity to the community that
will demonstrate that each of us has
a heart with talents that we can share
and that people do not need to fit a
certain mold to be accepted but should
be accepted and honored for their indi-
vidual gifts and talents?'
For information about inclusion programming
at Center Day Camps or Camp Discovery,
contact Leah Delahanty at (248) 432-5457 or