NORMAN — Excitement filled the hot afternoon air on Sunday as families began dropping their children off for a unique summer camp experience.
Camp ClapHans, an outreach project of the J.D. McCarty Center, has been in the works for some time now but Sunday, volunteers and staff were finally able to kick off the summer with their very first campers.
The camp is for children ages eight to 16 with developmental disabilities. Greg Gaston, director of marketing at the J.D. McCarty Center, said it is the first and only summer camp in the state that he is aware of that was specifically designed and built for children with disabilities.
Gaston said the concept for the camp began as late as 1995. The camp area was built entirely by donated funds and in 2008 they were finally able to break ground.
The concept came about when the staff was trying to think of innovative, fun and creative ways for children to continue their therapy through the summer.
“Many of the children would plateau or regress over the summer,” Gaston said. “This should help them keep that (therapy) up.”
Vicki Kuestersteffen, director and CEO of the McCarty center, said for many of the children, it will be their first summer camp experience. She said a lot of the parents have been thanking them for making the opportunity available for their kids.
“A lot of the parents never felt comfortable taking their children to a regular summer camp but they feel comfortable bringing them here,” Kuestersteffen said.
Gaston said he believes part of that has to do with the McCarty Center’s great reputation.
“I truly can’t imagine a better camping experience for any child with any social or mental disability,” said Sheryl Edwards as she was dropping off her granddaughter Athena Scroggins.
“I think she (Athena) is going to grow and learn a lot this week,” Edwards said.