Story and photos by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL
The annual Rotary Youth Camp is held at the Tri-State Christian Camp at 100 Christian Camp Rd. DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433 for the month of July. Rotary clubs from Pensacola to Tallahassee participate. The club describes the camp:
“The Rotary Youth Camp offers a free overnight camp for children and training as a counselor for people with disabilities to improve their self-esteem, increase their social skills and provide opportunities for success in outdoor recreation. Camp activities include swimming, arts and crafts, hikes, bonfires, dancing and music. Each child has their own counselor for individual attention. We have professional nursing staff 24/7 who also dispense medication.
The camp has 35 caregivers/counsellors this year; five are college freshmen and the rest are high school graduates. Tri-State Christian Camp is a 47-acre facility with six cabins and a six-room motel for more private accommodations. Campers come begging from Florida and South Georgia. Easter Seals provide for campers over the age of 14. Each group of campers comes on Sunday afternoon and stays until Friday.
The monitors train for five days before the campers to prepare. Most advisers have already done this, some for up to 25 years. Since the monitors are one-on-one with the campers, the campers sleep on the bottom bunk and the monitor sleeps on the top.
This is the fourth year at this location; previously, the three camps used were in Tallahassee. The reason for this move was due to the damage caused by Hurricane Michael. The sidewalks here are popular due to the use of wheelchairs. The activities are very similar to any other camp. They have a swimming pool and not only swim, but also have diving lessons. Archery, BB range and a Gaga pit, which is played in an octagonal pit. It is claimed to be a softer, softer version of dodgeball.
There are also indoor activities such as Uno, other card games and an extensive arts and crafts program. This year’s theme is Medieval England, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and they’re building all the scenery. There is also music, dancing, plays and (hopefully) puppets. A group from Pensacola comes and brings three hours of science and space activities. Another group called Animal Tales comes for three hours and brings live animals. Sometimes the various Rotary groups bring a band or some kind of music when they bring dinner. They ask the Florida Arts Council for musicians who might be passing through the area and might be interested in performing.
There is no fee for the camp and all but four counselors are paid. There are two nurses on staff. Breakfast and lunch are provided from the camp and dinner is provided by the various Rotary groups. The camp has room for 109 people, but they only accept 70 because of disabilities. Some of the children who come are already in DCF care. They are required to report any allegations of abuse to the authorities. The nurse monitors each child as they enter, not only for temperature, but also for signs of abuse. Each child must have permission from their doctor to attend, a four-page form must be completed. They may also have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) to follow.
Joyce Dove lives in Quincy and is the executive director of Rotary Youth Camp. The address is PO Box 10426 Tallahassee, FL 32302 and the email address is [email protected] The website is www.rycmf.org