The Special Olympics of Delaware will be hosting its second session of its annual summer camp at Camp Barnes near Bethany Beach, coming up on Aug. 12-14. A total of around 110 Special Olympics Delaware athletes and 70 volunteer counselors were scheduled to attend the two camps.
The summer camps are one of the most anticipated events of the year for Special Olympics athletes of various ages and abilities. Campers get to participate in several traditional camp activities, including sports, canoeing, swimming, kayaking, boating and crafts, just to name a few. They will also get to enjoy the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with old friends and meet new ones during the three-day, two-night camp experiences.
“The Special Olympics summer camp is a great opportunity for our Special Olympics athletes of all ages to experience the same traditional summer camps that other kids do,” said Jon Buzby, director of media relations and program innovations for Special Olympics Delaware.
“We’ve found over the years that, while we initially wanted to make it strictly a sports camp, to go along with the mission of our organization, that our athletes really just wanted a traditional camp. And that’s why now, in addition to some sports that we do at the camp, we also swim for fun, we have a dance, we do kayak races, canoe races — that type of thing... We try to keep the focus on fun, and not necessarily creating sports clinics.
“It has evolved over the 18 years,” he noted. “What once was a one camp a summer has evolved to two. Both camps pretty much sell out. We are excited for the 18th summer we are able to provide for our athletes this unique opportunity in a beautiful setting down at Camp Barnes. “We have a great relationship with them,” he said of the Delaware State Police-run camp, “and have for all 18 years. They allow us to give our athletes that experience.
“We are excited that the DIAA Student Leadership Conference, for the fourth straight year, is going to be a part of our camp to work with our athletes,” Buzby added. “That is a part of the Unified Sports inclusion that is a big push around the country right now.”
During the first camp, starting on Aug. 4, there will be 40 high school student-athletes from around the state who will be attending as part of their experience at the annual Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Leadership Conference. In addition, more than 25 high school and college students are volunteering at the two camps, as counselors. They will be joined by several adult volunteers who will also be serving in counselor roles.
“Special Olympics summer camp is three amazing days where our counselors interact with Special Olympics athletes in an inclusive setting to enjoy a traditional camp experience together,” said Kylie Frazer, director of school and youth initiatives.
“The counselors develop a greater understanding and appreciation of their peers with disabilities, and it serves as a tremendous lesson that all people are more alike than different. There’s no greater tribute to our athletes than the fact that many of our counselors come back year after year to spend the three days at camp with them.”
The weekend of July 20-22, the Delaware state capitol building turned red in a global display of unity as part of the Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary celebration.
It was one of hundreds of global landmarks lit up around the world to represent the dawn of “the Inclusion Revolution,” which is Special Olympics’ mission to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities worldwide and create inclusive communities.
Special Olympics was founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968 and has grown to include more than 5 million athletes and Unified partners participating in 170 countries.
By Jason Feather