JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
A three-day summer camp at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph July 8-10 provided a special group of children with an opportunity to explore and express their creative and artistic talents.
The 2014 JBSA Military & Family Readiness Arts and Dance Camp served special-needs children enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program as well as their siblings. The JBSA-Randolph camp at the Chapel Fellowship Hall was attended by 17 children.
"The camp is designed just for our special-needs children," Angela Green, JBSA-Randolph Military and Family Readiness Center school liaison officer, said. "The kids learn creative ways to express themselves and have a chance to make new friends."
VSA Texas, a member of the VSA international network that provides arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities, conducts its "Start with the Arts" summer camps throughout Texas.
JBSA-Randolph camp facilitators included professional teaching artists who guided children in learning dance moves, playing music and participating in arts and crafts activities. Volunteers from JBSA-Randolph Youth Programs provided assistance.
Master Sgt. Stacy Oliver, Air Force Personnel Center casualty office superintendent, whose 8-year-old daughter, Brianna, is enrolled in the EFMP, said the camp enabled Brianna "to get away for a few hours and have some fun.
"She got to hang out with other children who are like her in a way and didn't have to worry about being seen as different," Oliver said. "She has had a great experience with this camp and I know would love to attend again next year."
Oliver said the camp's finale is another attraction.
"The fact that the summer camp puts on a show on the last day so the kids can show off their projects to the parents is wonderful," she said.
Tracy Gaines, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Gaines, is assigned to JBSA-Lackland, said all three of her daughters - Magan, 10, Shelby, 12, and Molly, 14 - attended the camp. Magan and Shelby are enrolled in the EFMP.
"My kids have loved it, and they can't wait to get back," she said. "Molly's loved the art, Magan likes the crafts and Shelby is a gymnast. She loves the dance part of it."
Gaines also said she likes that the siblings of children in the EFMP are able to participate in the camp.
"They sometimes get overlooked," she said.
The JBSA-Randolph event was the third of four camps at JBSA locations this summer that served children ages 6-18 in the EFMP, which seeks to identify medical and educational needs of special-needs family members in support of active-duty sponsor reassignment and civilian employment.
Other camps were conducted June 9-12 at JBSA-Lackland and June 23-26 at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston; another camp is planned Monday through Wednesday at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
Oliver called EFMP "a wonderful program because it helps provide stability in your child's life.
"You have a support group that is there to assist you with anything you need," she said. "It is also a great program because they hold many events that are solely for families that have children with special needs."
Gaines said the camp has benefited her daughters because they "learn how to interact with other children, build friendships and help each other."