MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 18, 2014

Camp Bennett draws 55 campers

Day camp helps children with disabilities

— Camp Bennett is in full swing and it’s difficult to determine who is having more fun — campers, staff or volunteers.

Fifty-five campers enrolled Monday for the three-week camp for children with disabilities, said Tamra Scherer, camp director.

Camp Bennett offers a variety of activities for adults and children with disabilities each summer. The two-week camp for adults, concluded last week and there were 40 campers.

Students as young as 6 may begin attending the student camp, and continue to attend until they graduate from high school. Once they graduate, they are eligible to participate in the adult camp.

Camp activities are conducted Monday through Thursday, and include arts and crafts, science and nature, music and rhythm, and outdoor recreation.

In addition to activities at the Camp which is near Honor Heights Park, children and adults campers enjoy field trips.

Camp Bennett opened in 1975 and is named for Hadley Bennett, who along with his wife Louise, worked to renovate and prepare the site for the needs of the campers. They also provided programming and activities tailored to the special needs of the campers.

Muskogee Public Schools began operating the camp about 10 years ago.

Funds for the adult camp are provided by private donations and foundations. Some of the expenses for the camp for children are provided through federal funds, plus fundraisers and private donations.

For some of the student campers, Camp Bennett is the only activity they have in the summer. “They look forward to this all year long,” said Debbie Winburn, director of special programs at Muskogee Public Schools.

Parents of the campers are very appreciative of the program. “The parents really are excited for their kids to have activities to do in the summer,” Scherer said.

Approximately 20 members of the Youth Volunteer Corps of Muskogee are volunteering to help with the adult and children camps this summer, said corps team leader Leslie Hamil.

“They love it out here,” Hamil said. “They love giving their time. They love meeting these kids and the adults for the adult camp. Some of them have chosen careers after working out here.”

Members of Youth Volunteer Corps help with a variety of projects during summers, including the water park, animal shelter and the butterfly garden, and Camp Bennett is one of the more popular summer projects, she said.

This is the fifth year that Youth Volunteer Corps members Phylisia Mayfield and Kayla Russell have worked at Camp Bennett.

Mayfield said she likes to help the campers as they participate in arts and crafts, music and other activities. “It’s heart-warming to just help them, and be friends with them,” she said.

Russell said she enjoys spending time with the campers. “It’s kind of rewarding to watch them have a good time in an environment they feel comfortable with.”

Staff members at Camp Bennett are employees at Muskogee Public Schools, and Winburn praised their dedication.

“Let me tell you, the best of the best are out here, that is no doubt,” she said.

Staff members have the kids’ interests at heart and the ability to change the activities as needed to meet the individual needs of the campers, she said.

Reach Anita Reding at (918) 684-2903 or areding@muskogeephoenix.com.

You can help

To make a donation to Camp Bennett, call Debbie Winburn at (918) 684-3700, ext. 1627.

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