Children soar at EFMP Day Camp
Thursday, June 19, 2008, Leavenworth Lamp
Seventeen-year-old Beau McCowen had few opportunities to go to camps before Camp Soar, part of Fort Leavenworth's Exceptional Family Member Program. His mother, Stacy, said her son was born with congenital cytomegalovirus, a condition that affects him mentally and physically. As such, it is difficult for the Family to find activities in which Beau can participate. The first morning of the two-day daycamp, Beau was greeted with bright smiles by a musical therapist and a nurse. They introduced Beau to his camp buddies for the day and helped him find a musical instrument he could play.
"I know he's in good hands with these guys," Stacy McCowen said.
This is the first year for the EFMP summer camp, which was conducted around Hunt Lodge June 17-18. There were 12 campers with varying levels of mental and physical disabilities. Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers provided volunteer camp "buddies" and the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department both accompanied and gave a fire truck tour to the campers. There was also a professional music therapist, professional storyteller, dogs from Human Animal Bond and crafts with the Accessible Arts of Kansas City.
Jennifer Burford, EFMP manager, said the camp was developed to meet the needs of Fort Leavenworth families. Although camps for special needs children exist, many are at least a 20-minute drive from post and require an overnight stay.
"We took their needs into consideration as far as their exceptional abilities," Burford said. "We wanted them to take part in activities and be successful in the activities, and most importantly, have fun."
Burford said EFMP, an initiative through Army Community Services and the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, serves about 550 Family members on post. EFMP includes adults with special medical needs.
Losi Leiato, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combined Arms Center, is the president of Fort Leavenworth's BOSS program. When she brought up the possibility of volunteering for an EFMP camp at a BOSS meeting, her fellow Soldiers were thrilled.
"Most of them haven't had the opportunity to work with disabled children," she said. Leiato said BOSS members received special training to prepare for the camp. She said she had newfound respect for the parents of special needs children.
"This is not easy," she said. "I can just see what their parents go through. It's good for (children) to come and do stuff instead of staying inside all day."
Patrick Shelton, youth sports manager, organized activities such as kicking a soccer ball, putt-putt golf and basketball. "It's more of a motor skill development," he said. "We want them to have fun and kind of explore fitness at their own pace."
Although the camp did set up groups and stations for activities, children were able to participate in all their favorite activities at their own speed.
Teresa White is the mother of 10-year-old twins, Alex and Zach. The boys were born with cerebral palsy. "The activities are designed for their developmental stages, the buddies are so attentive and excited about working with the kids, but it's a relaxed environment," she said.
White said having a camp on post allowed her children to feel within their comfort zone and have a chance to get outside for a beautiful summer day. Her children were a little stressed from a summer break in their normal school routine and the recent round of storms keeping them inside.
At camp, Alex and Zach enjoyed playing boisterous musical instruments and kicking a soccer ball to their camp buddies. "Not only does it make their skills soar, it makes our souls soar," White said.
EFMP provides respite care for caregivers and has bowling parties once a month on post. For more information about EFMP, contact Burford at 684-2800.