Friday, March 26

Camp Grace for the Statesman

I've worked with Statesman faith reporter Joshunda Sanders a lot in the past few weeks - from Evangelical to Buddhist to Hindu - I've been getting around in Austin.

Camp Grace is a day camp for children with special needs at the First Evangelical Free Church in south Austin.  A few times a year the church opens it's doors, allowing parents and caregivers an afternoon of worry free downtime as their kids are entertained by church volunteers. The church also runs the Pathway's ministry which pairs special needs children with a buddy to encourage families to attend services.  I had a great time following a group of 4-6 year-olds through the camp one afternoon.  You can read Joshunda's article here.

Neil Siedschlag, right, and Jenny Tynes, left, get a laugh from Pearce Smithson, a 4-year-old with cerebral palsy, center, during an activity at Camp Grace.  The new program hosted close to 40 children with special needs and their siblings for an afternoon of games, songs, crafts, and playtime giving their parents and caregivers an afternoon off.

Pearce Smithson, center, laughs as Tammy Argumedo, hand at left, tickles him with a feather while he is embraced by Jenny Tynes, top,  during an activity at Camp Grace.

Judah Siedschlag, 5, sits underneath a parachute in the sensory room at Camp Grace hosted by the First Evangelical Free Church in south Austin.  Siedschlag and his brother Noah, 6, have regressive autism.  Parents Rebecca and Neil Siedschlag moved the family from Iowa to Texas where services for children with autism were more abundant.  Though the family lives in Round Rock, they make the 50-mile drive every weekend for the special needs Pathways ministry that the church offers.  "For us we feel supported," says mother Rebecca Siedschlag.  "We're not excluded because our family is different."

Jack Stratton, 2, is encircled by a hula hoop from Luke Penner, right, during playtime at Camp Grace.  Stratton spent the day at play with volunteers with his older sister Maddie who is recovering from multiple heart and brain surgeries.

Maddie Stratton, 4, right, plays with Tessa Clabby, 15, center, during Camp Grace at the First Evangelical Free Church in south Austin on Saturday, February 28, 2010.  Stratton was born with a hole in her heart and is a camp favorite.  "She's always laughing,"  says Clabby.

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