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Special-needs children visit Camp Camelot at Cape County Park
Donna Jones of Chaffee, Mo., manned the Robinhood hat-making booth at the annual adventure day camp held for special-needs Boy and Girl Scouts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. About 165 children, 35 teachers and 70 volunteers transported themselves into medieval times by participating in more that 24 activities centered on that historic period.
A mother of two homeschooled children, Abbie, 12 and Zack, 17, Jones has been attending Adventure Days with her children for about five years. "I first got involved because I thought it was good for my kids to be exposed to special needs kids. The first year it made such an impact that Abbie started making things for the kids about a month and a half before Adventure Days. She made shoe charms, bracelets and pins."
Volunteer Linda Royce, who said they'd run out of cone-shaped princess hats early on, discovered the inspiration that occurred when children are encouraged in their creativity. "One little boy asked if he could put a crown on top of his knight helmet." The idea took off and it sort of became a fad.
Andrea Burford, a 10th-grade Kelly High School student, said her cone-shaped princess hat made her feel like Rapunzel. Making it was the most fun for her and, she said, "It made me feel like I'm living in Shrek times."
Kim Essner, Burford's special needs class teacher at Kelly High School, attended Adventure Day for the third time.
"We started this week learning about Renaissance times. Several children had studied medieval times in social studies already," Essner said.
A variety of activities and learning stations, including falconry, shield and hat making, clothing and weaponry, helped children learn and understand life in medieval times.
Cathie Lundry, director of special-needs Scouting of Greater St. Louis Council, Boy Scouts of America, wrote a grant to receive funding for this year's program, which included implementing a unit of curriculum in schools.
Veronica Benoit, a school nurse at Delta R-5, said, "We are having a blast." She accompanied the school's special education class along with teacher Jennifer Brawley and about a dozen students. The knight's clothing booth fascinated the boys, who tried on various helmets and protective clothing, held swords and explored with curiousity.
"They earned today's outing," said Brawley. "We do Boy Scouting in the classroom and they had to earn a manners badge, have perfect attendance and generally be good to attend today."