It started out as a dream for Clay Aiken and finally became a reality in the summer of 2004. Camp Gonzo was alive and well at the West Cabarrus YMCA in Concord, North Carolina.
The Bubel/Aiken Foundation launched a new program with the YMCA to give children with disabilities an amazing opportunity. Camp Gonzo got its name from Clay’s camp nickname and the summer program focused on inclusion, where children with and without disabilities interact.
“To actually come in and see the kids actually doing it is something that I had envisioned and dreamed of years before all this happened while working at the Y in Raleigh,” Aiken said.
The counselors at Camp Gonzo were specially trained for dealing with children with disabilities. Since this was a new program, the staff was not sure how it would work. But the camp was a huge success and things worked out well.
When talking to Lynda Loveland, Clay said of the plan:
“It’s not our goal to try this and then give up. If we had tried it and it didn’t work, we would have tweaked it and made it work next year. But we’re really lucky because it’s worked so well.”
The Bubel/Aiken Foundation was lucky to form the partnership with The West Cabarras YMCA. Located in the Afton Village area, the facility opened in 2003 and includes an indoor lap pool, indoor water park, fitness center, gymnasium, multi-purpose room, child watch, teen center, sports firlds, indoor climbing wall and more. This branch also offers group fitmess, swim lessons and chidfcare programs. The NorthEast Medical Center Outpatient Rehab Center is also located at the West Cabarrus YMCA .
Chad Troxell is a RN at NorthEast Medical Center. He volunteered his time to participate in the two-week camp as the camp nurse. Troxell, who wears two hearing aids, grew up appreciating the fact that it is sometimes hard to be accepted when you’re not the same as others around you.
Troxell was excited about the camp and was impressed with Clay Aiken and his passion for working with disabled children. He is convinced that securing friends at Camp Gonzo will really help their integration into the upcoming school year.
Troxell’s co-workers at NEMC re-arranged their schedules to allow him to attend the two-week camp as the full-time nurse. “The ability to serve as a professional nurse and as a role model is a plus,” Troxell said.
Well, it isn’t called Camp Gonzo anymore. Now, it is a successful program called “Let’s ALL Play” and in the summer of 2009, there are 32 camps around the USA that create more inclusive communities where they are.
It is wonderful to watch a dream come true and it is even better to help the dream be fulfilled.
Remember, we can do a lot to help. We can use GoodSearch, save our ink cartridges, be involved with Wrapping For Inclusion and so many other things. Visit the BAF for more ideas.
The following video is a wonderful interview with Clay and Lynda Loveland. It was on TV on July 16th, 2004