Camp Smiles Gives Kids with Cerebral Palsy New Hope
By: Anita Howell
This isn’t just an article about a new camp, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome. I pray that it is an article that stirs hope, courage, passion, and faith.
A Phone Call When I Needed It
The other day, as I dashed in and out of the rain and darted up the stairs, I was stopped in my tracks by the Camp Smiles sign. It symbolized a dream that started on one of the toughest days of my life. That day I sat on the couch holding our 10-year-old son, Ryan, who was exhausted and limp from the toll a rough seizure and Diastat had taken on his body. I wasn’t much better. But there, at my lowest point, I received a phone call that would stir my hope.
It was Dr. Jeanne Cobb from Coastal Carolina University’s Literacy Lab. The week prior, I had called her to discuss the possibility of Coastal Carolina University hosting Camp Smiles, a summer day camp for children with cerebral palsy.
I began to tell Dr. Cobb about Ryan’s long, lonely summer and how excited he was to see his friends again. As the children began to speak to Ryan, he became so excited that he nearly rocked his little wheelchair across the room. Fortunately for Ryan, his equipment man has strategically placed springs in his chair for his bouts of excited rocking.
I also explained that there were no programs for children with such significant disabilities in our county. To my surprise, Dr. Cobb said, “I feel like we are placed on this earth to help others. I would love to be a part of this and will see if we can pull a team together to assist.”
Bringing Camp Smiles to Life
Since that day, with Dr. Cobb’s support, Dr. John Delport and Dr. Nanci Howard have diligently worked at developing the camp structure, staff, and curriculum. During the planning phase we decided to modify the camp to include children with Down syndrome. These two groups of children really have no other place to go for fun in the summer. And they are often drawn to each other, making them a perfect match for our camp setting. It is truly heartwarming to see them work together.
As Dr. Delport and Dr. Howard have been busy working out the details of the camp, I’ve been out in the community seeking funding and bringing awareness to Camp Smiles. As I type, we have pledges for approximately half of the $65,000 needed for the camp to run the entire 6 weeks.
Camp Smiles will make it possible for the children to avoid regression, have fun, and socialize. For the families, who are torn between caring for their children and providing for them financially, Camp Smiles will be the much needed summer help when schools are closed.
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Anita Howell has been married to Wes since 1988. They have a daughter named Emily who is currently attending college, and a son, Ryan. She writes, “Though I have never been a medical, research, or legal professional, Ryan’s stroke at birth has thrown me into the deep end of the pool for all of it. It was quite overwhelming in the early years; however, God has made Philippians 4:13 very real throughout my journey.”