A pilot project at Blue Lake will allow children with special needs to have access to summer camp opportunities close to home.
Blue Lake Executive Director Todd Hebert was approached by a group of parents last summer to add summer programming specifically focusing on youth with special needs.
Hebert has dubbed the camp as “Camp for Kids with Exceptional Needs.”
“The closest programs for these youth are in the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland,” explained Hebert. “So it’s very prohibitive for parents to send their kids that far away.”
Hebert approached Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and received just under $20,000, which Hebert said will help offset some of the costs, while also potentially providing Blue Lake with extra one-on-one staffing for any of the children who may need it.
“Without this funding the project would not move forward,” said Hebert of CBT’s grant. “External funding such as that received from CBT is absolutely vital to our programs. That’s what allows us the flexibility to consider new programming, so without it we wouldn’t even be able to make it possible.”
Hebert said that he has been meeting with parents of children who may attend the camp, as well as Basin volunteer,s to come up with ideas for detailed programming changes that Blue Lake can make to suit these youths needs.
“We certainly would like to focus on our standardized recreational programs like canoeing, arts and crafts and swimming, which are the fairly typical summer camp type programs, but depending on the advice we get back from parents we want to make sure we’re catering to those needs,” explained Hebert, adding, “We’d also like to introduce some of our environmental programming like walking through the trees and noting different soils and plants.”
In addition to these programs, Hebert said another component will be a mentoring program open to youth who want to develop additional leadership skills. The camp plans to identify five to six youths interested and take them through their regular staff-training program before allowing them to job shadow staff during the Exceptional Needs camp.
“My hope is that once we get started with this we can look at other things throughout the year to provide them with opportunities for additional leadership and maybe some weekend camps as well,” said Hebert.
Hebert said that he hopes to see 40-50 kids enrolled in the camp between the ages of 7-14, though the age range may open up to allow 15-17-year-olds access depending on feedback from parents.
“This kind of programming is vitally important. The response has been overwhelming from parents who are interested and keen as well as a number of community members who are interested in this moving forward so it’s been very exciting for us,” said Hebert.
Detailed camp information including registration will be made available within the next week at www.bluelakecentre.com. Those interested can also contact Blue Lake via phone at 250-426-3676.
Besides Blue Lake, Columbia Basin Trust provided 27 other projects that support social well-being with over $1.3 million in funding through their Social Grants program.