Open Access Resource Centre (OARC) spearheaded an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) camp that is planned and run by volunteers. The “Camp yAAC” campers are a bunch of fun-loving individuals between the ages of 6 and 21 who have communication challenges and use speech-generating devices to communicate. Camp Manitou hosted Camp yAAC from July 25 through 27 where fifteen campers and their support workers enjoyed the great outdoors.
The group’s home base for the three days was a huge 20’x30’ white tent. It was a place where they had the chance to recharge their batteries, get out of the sun and communicate with their iDevices about the activities they had enjoyed. Camp Manitou activity leader, Christine was assigned to lead the group on their camp adventures. Being fluent in American Sign Language, Christine was able to communicate with the campers, put them at ease and enhance their camp experience. She led the group on a nature walk which showcased some of the fauna and wildlife found at camp.
The group was also able to sit around the campfire to enjoy the bannock they had made as part of their many activities. Despite the rainy weather, and fully decked in safety gear, many campers experienced their first exciting ride down the zip line. Hitting targets at archery, games of dodgeball in the gym and afternoon swims in the pool were just some of the highlights of the group’s time at Manitou.
Christine has worked with the group for the past two summers and savoured this summer’s camp moments even more than usual as it was her last summer with Camp Manitou. She is now in the second week of her teaching career. Reflecting back on her time spent with Camp yAAC, she noted, “The group of campers come with such excitement and it is infectious and hard not to share their enthusiasm for the activities each day. The parachute games have been a highlight both years and the different carnival games were a great way to get to interact with each camper on a personal level with their interests.” She loves when campers overcome their nervousness to try a new skill and is so proud and excited when they concur the challenge. She was sad to say goodbye to Open Access Resource as they welcomed her into their community and shared experiences with her for the past two years. Christine hopes to sneak back to camp to spend another three days with them in the summer of 2019.
Marnie Loewen, executive assistant and previous board member of OARC, shared some of her thoughts on this past summer’s visit. “The caring and accommodating staff helped us with planning and assisted our group during our camp visit. They always met the needs of our campers and volunteers and were available for any inquiries or troubleshooting. The kids had such a great time and the camp was open to lengthening some of our activity time slots to meet the needs of our campers without having to rush. We were also able to implement some of our own activities to focus on engaging the kids in communicating with their speech-generating devices. With such an assortment of activities there was never a dull moment. Many campers experienced activities like ziplining and archery for the first time. We arrived with a large complement of volunteers and Camp Manitou welcomed us all. Thank you to the True North Youth Foundation for operating such a safe and fun camp that offers our campers new communication opportunities. 2018 was our second summer experience at Camp Manitou and we will definitely be back for 2019! ”