Camp Able: A Unique Camping Experience for Persons with Special Needs
AuthorBennett, Kyle Vernon
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My project is to create a camping experience for persons with disabilities within the Diocese of Southwest Florida. My interests in persons with mental and physical disabilities are many faceted. My ministry and worldview have been formed by over twenty-five years of working at camps for persons with disabilities. This project will include the timeline of steps taken to make this dream into the reality of Camp Able. This project will look at what has shaped the construct and changing meaning of mental retardation. My focus will be primarily from the 1950s to the present including background material to set the stage. The primary text used in the historical research is Inventing the Feeble Mind by James W. Trent, Jr.. I propose to look at the factors of inclusion and exclusion to determine the "call" of God's church. It is my intent to develop a model of inclusive ministry, which has practical applications within the life of the church. I will look at this, not only from the perspective of benefits garnered by those we have marginalized, but with the belief that if one person or group is excluded from the community, the community itself has gone astray from the fold of the Good Shepherd, and therefore needs to be brought back in, i.e. found. We in the church uphold central beliefs about humanity that are stated in our baptismal covenant. In seeking to define ourselves in relation to each other, and in this case those labeled with disabilities, we may find that we hold more in common than we ever thought possible and need each other more than we ever could imagine. The dialogue begins when we fully comprehend that our dependency on God is manifested in our dependency on each other, for hope stems from the reality that we are all children of the same Father. It is my goal in this project to develop a camping experience that manifests God's love for a special group of God's children. Once undertaken, I intend to continually apply what I've learned into a dynamic model of ministry for persons with disabilities. This model is presented in the handbook for the staff of Camp Able. This project represents the formational and foundational underpinnings of my understanding of God and the opportunity we have to manifest God's love in community. It is a statement of my understanding of the practice of ministry, especially as we define ourselves through the eyes of the 'least of these.' The project will entail an examination of faithful relationships in relation to scripture and tradition. I envision Camp Able to be a Christian model of human respect and dignity that continually challenges the norms and practices of the church, identi@ing characteristics that are inclusive and those that are not. Theologically, I will seek to understand the fundamental theological question of those labeled disabled. If we are all made in the image of God, how do I explaiii who I am? What does that say about God? And how is this knowledge made manifest in the Body of Christ? Camp Able is a playground that defies imagination. Our care for persons with disabilities is not about control and isolation, but about integration and innovative support. Personal limitations are seen as community challenges. Accessibility is not seen as an add-on but integrated into our community ethos, just as acceptability and respect are mandated by our baptismal call.
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