La Plata High School housed a general store, a veterinarian who offers pet adoptions, a photography studio, ice cream shop, pizza parlor and hair salon this week during Camp Co-Op’s Community Fair. There also was a movie theater, gardening center and volunteer fire department.
“Some of these kids don’t go out into the community,” said camp director Richard Kelly, who has been working at the camp for 24 years and has been director for 23 of them. “So we bring the community to them.”
Camp Co-Op has been held for about 40 years, Marilyn Borrell, program manager for 35 years, said. The six-week camp — a cooperation between Charles County Public Schools and the county’s Department of Community Services — is open to people six to 21 who have special needs including autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities, she said. Borrell got involved about 35 years ago when her late daughter, Emily, who had Down’s, was a camper. The camp has become a big part of the Borrell family’s life. Borrell’s daughter, Rebecca Voltz, of Virginia Beach starting volunteering when she was in third grade.
Her children — Christopher, twins Kaitlyn and Michaela, and Matt —have been tagging along since they were babies and starting helping out as soon as they were able. During the fair, the twins manned stations where campers could visit and Matt spent most of the time palling around with a new buddy, camper Brandon Williams.
The camp runs for six weeks. Some sign up for all six, others pick how many sessions they want to attend. Each week has a theme — In the Kitchen, Maryland Week, Carnival, Community — and each Thursday a culminating event takes place with family and friends invited to attend.
The rest of the days are filled with camp activities like swimming and field trips to go to a trampoline park, bowling, ball games, fishing and the movies.
Nathan Penn II, a J.C. Parks Elementary School fifth grader, said the Flight Trampoline Park has been the highlight of camp so far. “It was so much fun,” he said. “The field trips are really fun. You get to do something you like to do.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.