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Smiling at camp

Lions Club sponsors dinner, camper at Camp Smile

MOBILE — With the early evening heat thick in the air, members of the Atmore Lions Club got to work preparing dinner for campers at Camp Smile last Friday.

The local club was at the camp to sponsor a meal and a camper.

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Mobile hosts Camp Smile. The camp is a residential summer camp for individuals with disabilities ages 5-50 and their siblings. Campers not only have the chance to participate in physical activities like kayaking, fishing and horseback riding, they also meet others whose disabilities and life experiences are similar to their own, according to Camp Smile’s website. UCP funds the entire camp through donations and fundraisers held during the year prior.

Each week caters to different age groups. Last week, the camp had 5 to 9 year olds.

Counselors, who are trained before the camp session, are assigned an individual camper for the duration of the session.

“We just do four weeks,” United Cerebral Palsy of Mobile President and CEO Glenn Harger said. “They (Pilots) built it pretty rusty at first. Since then, they put in insulation and paved roads. They built this from scratch. This is a fully accessible camp.”

UCP has been a part of the camp for the past nine years.

“This camp is for special needs children and we cover every kind of disability under the sun,” Harger said. “We serve not just people with cerebral palsy.”

Harger said he calls last week the “baby week” of the summer.

This is the first year that the Lions Club sponsored a meal for the campers. In addition to providing a meal, the local club sponsored a member’s son.

Member Jordan Barnett’s son, Landon, is autistic and was a camper at Camp Smile last week.

“The unique thing is that it’s one week for a kid at camp, and it’s a week for mom and dad to go out to dinner by themselves,” Harger said. “It’s also a week where we use teenagers 15 to 19 years old. It’s a real learning experience for them.”