TRURO – A society offering support for families of children with autism received some good news recently – two grants will allow them to hire two employees for the annual summer camp.
“This year, we feel that because Human Resources Development Canada came through for us with two grants, we are definitely a go this year,” said Shirley Teasdale, a board member of Parents Supporting Parents and a mother of two sons with special needs.
Parents Supporting Parents, a non-profit society offering support to families of children with special needs, has been offering a seven-week summer camp for the past three years, with plans to continue this year.
“We’re finding that the demand is going up each year and the challenge we’re having is trying to accommodate those needs,” she said.
The summer camp is offered on a part-time basis to children with special needs to allow the society the chance of offering it to more children. Typically there are six staff members to 10 children, so by offering it part-time to families, more children can benefit from the camp.
“But we’re finding it difficult to meet all of those needs. There are some children with such high needs that require to have a one-to-one ratio. We have two one-on-one spots, but we’re looking to move to three one-on-one spots because of the demand,” Teasdale said.
The camp is offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday, in the summer, and Teasdale said the society is trying to be as independent as possible. It started about five years ago as a support group, but has expanded its services. The newest offering is the camp, which costs about $18,000 a year to operate. This year, the camp is also looking to hire a camp supervisor.
“The community has been great with the society,” said Teasdale, adding it has been well received within the community.
“The community has extended itself, as has the rotary club, the HRDC and local businesses for donations. The town has been very supportive too, as well as Scotiabank.”
The summer camp operates out of the St. Andrew’s United Church in Truro and children participate in a variety of activities, including outings within the town. All outings are within walking distance and the society is always looking for free activities.
“Victoria Park is a priceless gem. The kids love going there. And we go for walks to the fire hall, the public library … anything
that’s within walking distance that is free,” said Teasdale.
While only heading into its fourth year, Teasdale said it has already seen benefits for participants.
“They learn skills that are transferable to the school and home,” she said. “We see them maturing each summer. The children really enjoy it. It’s about normalizing our children’s lives and to broaden their world. It gives them a chance to get out with other children, and to learn and grow in a different environment.”
But in order to offer the camp, the society needs to constantly fundraise. The camp is offered for $25 per child, which covers rental costs, supplies and healthy snacks.
“The camp is our biggest program. It definitely has the most draw for families,” said Barb Weatherbey, chairwoman of Parents Supporting Parents. “It provides good quality respite for families and the kids have an awesome camp experience. They wouldn’t get to go to camp without this one. And for those parents, this is a godsend.”
Throughout the year, the society hosts fundraisers, such as cookie dough sales, bagging groceries and a concert, which is set for April 26 at the Douglas Street Recreation Centre.
For more information on the society, and the programs and support it offers, call Weatherbey at 641-2020 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can also be made online at www.youcaring.com and searching for ‘Parents Supporting Parents.’
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Old-time country and bluegrass concert fundraiser
FOR: Bright Skies summer day camp for children with special needs, hosted by Parents Supporting Parents
WHEN: April 26, 7 to 9:30 p.m.
FEATURING: Performances by Shirley, Wayne and Lisa Teasdale, Jim Richards and Rusty Cage, Next of Kin, and Matt Balsor; door prizes, silent auction, 50/50 draw
*All proceeds go into the operations of the seven-week summer day camp