MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

May 4, 2013

Camp serves kids with autism

Camp Grey Squirrel was founded in 2009 by Fred and Daphne Hamon, parents of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome who was denied admittance to traditional camps because of his diagnosis.

As the only camp of its kind in Oklahoma, Camp Grey Squirrel’s mission is to give children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) a traditional camp experience through resident, day and weekend camps.

Camp activities include many of the same activities that are offered at other summer camps such as arts and crafts, swimming, horseback riding, archery, fishing and hay rides. Each activity is tailored for the special needs of children and youth with ASDs. The Camp Grey Squirrel model features a one-on-one buddy system. Youth volunteer buddies participate with campers in all of the activities during the camp session.

A sneak peek preview allows campers and their families to visit resident camp ahead of time so that it will not be new when they arrive on the first day of camp. At every camp, a quiet zone is available for campers who need a break from activities, and activity backpacks are placed at areas that require waiting. Each camp session ends with an awards ceremony on the last day. All campers receive medals and award certificates from their buddies. Certificates include “Best Joke Teller,” “Best Artist,” and “Best New Friend.” Campers present a puppet show during the closing ceremonies.

Activities and interaction with other youth help campers overcome some of the barriers created by autism spectrum disorders. For example, one camper who had been silent all week was able to speak freely when she put on a hand puppet and went behind the puppet stage.

A full camp schedule is already under way for 2013. Seventy kids and moms attended the Mom & Me weekend camp on April 27. Day camps at the United Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. three days per week June 10 to 26 and July 16 to 24. Two four-day resident camps are held at the United Methodist Boys’ Ranch in Gore July 3 to 6 and July 8 to 11. The Fall Family Camp will be Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the United Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah.

Camps are open to children ages 5 and up with autism spectrum disorders who are able to participate in camp activities.

Day camp tuition is $190 per camper; resident camp tuition is $500 per camper; and family camp tuition is $90 per family. Residents of Muskogee who meet income guidelines can attend Camp Grey Squirrel’s day and resident camps for free thanks to scholarship funding provided by the City of Muskogee Foundation. Camps are limited to 20 campers per session for day camps and 15 campers per session for resident camps and are filling up quickly.

For more information or to register your camper, contact Daphne Hamon at (918) 457-1110 or photobugrn@yahoo.com.

Reach Rebecca Walkup at (918) 683-4600 or rwalkup@nbn-nrc.org.

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