Camp Claphans

Camp counselor Kyara Grimes, left, camper Blane Moore and camp counselor Jackson Bruesch go canoeing on the lake by Camp ClapHans. The camp is a residential summer camp for children with disabilities and an outreach program of the J.D. McCarty Center for children with developmental disabilities.

The seventh year of “Camp ClapHans” at the J.D. McCarty Center will feature three summer sessions, each three weeks long, focused on fun camp activities and therapeutic services.

The residential summer camp for kids with disabilities ages 8 to 18 takes place on the center’s campus, with cabin lodging and activities like archery, canoeing, horse riding, swimming and fishing at an 11-acre lake. The camp features a one-to-one staff-to-camper ratio, with a physician and nurses on site to assist with medical needs.

Founded in 2013, the camp is named in dedication to Sammy Jack Claphan, a Cherokee Oklahoman who, after playing football for the University of Oklahoma and two NFL teams, moved back to the state to teach special education before his death in 2001.

After a heavily modified session in 2020 due to COVID-19, the camp is nearly back to its traditional format. Still, a select number of activities were scheduled in an effort to keep everyone safe as the pandemic winds down, said Sharla Bardin, public relations director at the J.D. McCarty Center.

In 2020, campers were able to come in a month window for combined camp activities and therapy services, Bardin said. The adjusted format was well received, and this year’s camps are organized similarly.

The first of the three summer sessions began May 24 and finishes June 11. A second session runs June 14-July 2. The final session of 2021 is scheduled for July 12-30.

“When campers come in, they stay the entire three weeks, getting to do camp activities, therapy and we also added in some field trips this year,” Bardin said.

Field trips for this summer’s camps include visits to the Westwood Aquatic Center and the Blue Zoo at Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City. Bardin said the campers all seem to thoroughly enjoy their experience at the Blue Zoo.

Bardin said to prevent the spread of COVID-19, every camp staffer has been vaccinated and tested, and guests visiting the camp must also receive the vaccine.

“This year we had to look at [camp programming] differently and uphold safety protocols,” Bardin said. “We are still going to be able to bring out a car club whose members have been vaccinated.”

Along with Redline-For-Kids car club, the Astronomy Club of Oklahoma City is a featured guest this year.

While attendees and families seem to be enjoying this year’s camps, Bardin said she looks forward to the return of more guests like the Norman Fire Department and collegiate athletes in the coming years.

“But I’m just grateful that we’re able to do what we’re doing this summer,” Bardin said.

All camp slots for 2021 are full, but Bardin encourages families who have children with disabilities to visit jdmc.org to explore available services and programs including Camp ClapHans.

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.

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