Camp RAE, a summer program for children with disabilities, offered an opportunity this past summer for intensive, one-on-one therapy that most of the kids would have never gotten otherwise.
“A lot of the kids lose what they learn during the regular school year because all they can do is lay around during the summer since programs like Camp RAE are hard to find,” said Deana Strickland, one of Camp RAE’s founders.
Camp RAE offered a chance to continue the learning process rather than have the children regress.
Strickland’s daughter Allie, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, inspired the idea for Camp RAE. Strickland tried several times to get Allie into Pattison’s Academy in Charleston before she was accepted. She was overjoyed that Allie got in, but she admitted that having to move her family to Charleston for the summer was difficult.
“The program helped Allie so much, and I knew there was a need for a camp like that closer to home,” Strickland said. “It could help a lot of people.”
Strickland and her friend Allison King, who has a daughter, Evelyn, with CHARGE syndrome, started planning, and a year later, with the help of an encouraging and dedicated community, Camp RAE was ready. They decided on the name in honor of their children: Ransome, Allie and Evelyn. Ransome is Allie’s twin sister who is fully abled.
Camp RAE 2010 took in eleven kids this past summer. An assistant and several physical therapists helped each child better develop certain skills using physical, occupational, and speech therapy. They even got to participate in music, aqua and massage therapy.
“It was an amazing turn out, and everyone is looking forward to next year,” Strickland said.
In preparation for summer 2011, Strickland and the others have organized Camp RAE’s Second Annual 5K Run. It is set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. at the Legion Field in Florence.
Participants can run or walk in the actual race, but volunteers are also need just to help out with food, games, etc.
Abby Lee, a sophomore at Francis Marion University, spent her summer working at Camp RAE, and she is very excited about the upcoming fundraiser.
“Mrs. Deana was one of my high school teachers, and she was always trying to get me interested in special education,” Lee said. “I was hired as an assistant for the summer program, and it was the best summer of my life. Now I live, eat, and breathe Camp RAE.”
Lee said one of the girls she assisted walked for the first time while participating at Camp RAE. Lee now knows she will be working with special needs kids for the rest of her life.
“I was like a proud mom,” Lee said.
Since Strickland is an alumnus and Lee is a current student, a lot of FMU support is expected at the fundraiser. The ZTA and ADPi sororities are two sponsors for the event, and much of the Francis Marion women’s soccer team is volunteering.
For more information on the Camp RAE 5K Run, the program itself, and how donations are accepted, visit www.CampRAE.org.