Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Sept. 22, 2021

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Vancouver’s Access to Recreation program for people with special needs back after hiatus

By , Columbian staff writer
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Roane Vanderley, 18, dunks a basketball at an Access to Recreation camp on Tuesday.
Roane Vanderley, 18, dunks a basketball at an Access to Recreation camp on Tuesday. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Day camp attendee Nicole Brady, 18, was ready for Karaoke Tuesday at Vancouver’s Access to Recreation camp this week.

Asked if she had her song picked out, she showed zero hesitation.

“Taylor Swift song. ‘Love Story,’” Brady said.

Can she hit the high notes?

“No.”

Does that matter? Also no.

“It makes me happy,” she said.

According to the leaders of the annual summer program conducted by Vancouver Parks and Recreation, there was a lot to be happy about, as individuals with special needs seized the opportunity to come back to camp after the pandemic forced a hiatus in 2020.

Most of the campers know each other, having forged friendships within the city’s special needs community over the years.

“It’s been wonderful to get these guys back into programs and activities, and seeing their friends again. They (also) know a lot of the staff members,” said Karen Krohling, the city staffer who oversees the Access to Recreation program. “It’s been a very positive reaction that we’re reopening and able to be here again.”

Antonia Remsing, the camp lead, said the last year was a lonely one for many campers, especially among those who have aged out of school and count on recreational group settings to see and make friends. The Access to Recreation summer camps are open to anyone older than 13, with no upper limit.

“They’re so happy to be back because last year was just really hard,” Remsing said. “A lot of them are over the age of 21. They don’t go to school anymore usually after that.”

With that in mind, Parks and Recreation designed the camp to maximize opportunities for socialization and minimize COVID-19 risk. A full week of camp includes 20 participants broken into two pods of six and one pod of seven.

“We try to spend as much outside time as possible, especially with COVID happening right now. The more time we can spend outside, the more time all the campers are able to hang out all together because it’s easier for us to social distance and whatnot,” Remsing said.

Trey Sarver, 16, has been coming to Access to Recreation camps for a while – since at least seventh grade, he asserted.

His favorite parts are the group games.

“We’ve played a lot of games. Like we’ve played kickball, duck, duck goose, hot potato and freeze tag,” he paused to think. “I’m sure we’ve played more, though.”

Vancouver Parks and Recreation will host two more weeks of camp this year (July 26-30 and Aug. 2-6) at Lieser Elementary School, 301 S. Leiser Road. Camp starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. daily.

Weekly fees are $215 for Vancouver city residents and $247 for nonresidents. Scholarships that cover 50 percent of tuition are available to Clark County families based on household size and income. For more information, visit cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/camps-people-disabilities.

Columbian staff writer
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