DART Camp in session: still room for more

DART Camp in session: still room for moreSummer camp can be one of a child’s favorite experiences. Desert Area Resources and Training’s day camp for children with autism spectrum disorders is now in session through July 25, and still has room for a few more campers.

There’s another group that enjoys camp, too — the teen volunteers who come out to work with the campers. This year, more volunteers have come out than campers, a ratio of 15 to 12.

“These are all new volunteers,” said Cris Bridges, chief of client services at DART.

“All my former volunteers graduated and went on to college, so these are all new volunteers. It still amazes me that these kids come here and do this over their summer break without any prompting.”

This year’s volunteer crew ranges in age from 12 to 18. After meeting with DART staff before camp, each volunteer is matched with a camper so they can start working together on a one-to-one basis immediately.

“Our main goal is to give kids who are autistic a little extra socialization before school starts. We teach the volunteers to prompt them so they get extra opportunities for speech,” said Bridges.

Camp this year is being held at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, located at 633 Las Flores Ave. “It’s a fabulous location. The church donated the space for our camp and it’s been absolutely awesome,” said Bridges.

Bridges’ daughter Haley, 19, is the DART Camp coordinator. She also works as a preschool aide in the DART Preschool during the rest of the year. “She did almost everything this year,” said Bridges.

The campers were too busy playing and doing art projects to talk, but some of the volunteers shared a bit. “I really enjoy this experience,” said Lexi Herrera, 16. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Jackson Bridges, 12.

“I’m good friends with Haley and I found out about this volunteer opportunity through her,” said Alex Rockwell, 16. “Of course I’m having fun. I love having a buddy for a couple of weeks.”

The volunteers worked together to clean up after the campers.

If you have a child who would qualify for camp, call Bridges at 760-375-9787, ext. 19, for more information. The camp is free to the campers.

To help support the camp, you’re invited to a Pizza Factory fundraiser for DART Summer Camp on Thursday, July 18. Thirty percent of proceeds will go to support camp. When you order, give them a copy of the flyer or mention that you wish to donate to DART. For a flyer, call Marcy at 760-375-8494, ext. 25.

Story First Published: 2013-07-17