All Abilities Drama Camp, created for youth and adults with and without disabilities, is in the process of planning for its seventh year in existence in Lexington.
This camp started as a small, not-for- profit experience, dreamed up by adults who realized a need based on their philosophy of inclusion.
The camp’s director, schoolteacher Anna Brannen, asked a small group of educators with various skill sets and a passion for inclusion to help create a camp that would allow every individual involved to feel accepted, valued and loved.
This core team, which included Andrea Nielsen and Julie Sharon, Brannen’s fellow teachers at Jessamine Early Learning Village, realized immediately that a need for this kind of camp existed.
In collaboration with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, the camp was established at the school.
As core team members planned for the camp, they realized they would need numerous volunteers and supporting staff. The first stop for these volunteers was the staff at the Jessamine Early Learning Village.
Special educators, preschool and kindergarten teachers and paraprofessionals all chose to volunteer a week of their summer to help make this dream a reality.
Other volunteers were recruited, including teenagers. High school students earned volunteer hours by providing support and interaction with the campers.
As children signed up for camp, the staff contacted their families to learn how best to support their children.
In July of 2010, the first All Abilities Drama Camp occurred, culminating in an inspiring musical performance based on the story of “The Hungry Caterpillar.”
Each year, the staff works to embrace the gifts of the campers and volunteers, providing them opportunities to express themselves through the arts, all while accounting for the differing skills, personalities and abilities of all involved.
Campers with and without disabilities, ages 5 and up, work together toward the performance.
At the beginning of the week, campers choose their preferred job in the play – music, background/props or acting.
During the week, campers within their chosen group experience teamwork, inclusion and various learning styles.
Participants gain appreciation of the arts, as well as self-esteem for being a contributing member of the culminating performance.
Interactions of respect and encouragement for all campers are modeled by staff.
Each year, AADC occurs thanks to the amazing volunteers who allow a dream to become reality. Heart, determination and hard work are all part of the formula that makes AADC a success.
Teen volunteer Kyleigh Davis said it best.
“I love camp because it’s so unique. It’s awesome to see kids with and without special needs work together to create everything they need to put on a play,” she said. “It’s also a ton of fun to hang out with the kids throughout the week.”
Fellow teen volunteer Sara Haag, a co-leader of the dance group, echoed those sentiments.
“I love camp because it teaches all that everyone is capable of anything,” she said.
“It doesn’t only teach the kids this but it teaches the volunteers too. All Abilities Drama Camp is the highlight of my year and I look forward to it every summer.”
Info: Visit the Facebook page, blog at www.allabilitiescamp.blogspot.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.