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Camp Nugget provides games, encourages physical activity for disabled children

The camp has 46 participants this summer.

Camp Nugget provides games, encourages physical activity for disabled children

Sara Berkson

In this Camp Nugget game, one child is blindfolded as their partner guides them through the obstacle course.

Monday marked 7-year-old David’s second week at Camp Nugget. With other children, he enthusiastically participated in games, pranced around the room and was quick to shoot his arm into the air when it looked like someone deserved a high five.

“He likes this place a lot,” said Elijah Pitman, who watched his younger brother from outside the room. “At home, he would probably be sleeping, watching TV or hanging out at the park. This helps him listen to people more, follow directions better [and] make friends.”

More than 40 years since its establishment, Camp Nugget at Cal State Long Beach is back in full swing this summer, adding new names to the roster of special needs children it has seen throughout the years.

The camp began on June 18 and will continue through July 13, meeting Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to noon in the Kinesiology building.

With the help of grants, donations, scholarships and out-of-pocket payments from parents, Director of Camp Nugget Barry Lavay said the camp was able to accommodate 46 children, including David. The camp charges $400 per child, but scholarships are available to help cover the costs.

Lavay was also able to take in six junior counselors, or ex-campers who returned to assist.

“Our camp provides a quality program to children with disabilities, hands-on experience for my staff and an opportunity to give back to the community,” Lavay said. “I really think any state-supported school should provide programs that give back to the public.”

Lavay said Camp Nugget aims to teach children healthy physical habits they can use for a lifetime.

On Monday, before going to the pool, children at the camp knocked down bowling pins with soccer balls, tossed bean bags in the hallway and demolished pyramids made of plastic pails. At the sound of a whistle minutes into each activity, children collectively held onto a jump rope and switched to another game.

As camp counselor Adam Cahill — an alumnus who graduated from CSULB with a degree in adapted physical education — set up the beanbag toss, he explained how the game was meant to help develop object-control skills.

“Catching would be controlling an object,” he said, as he laid out colored number mats on the floor where children would later position themselves. “Essentially, we’re going to be doing some tosses, catching with one hand, two hands, opposite hand, back and forth, maybe some partner catching — it depends on the age and ability of the kids.”

Cahill said the camp thrives for a safe and successful environment, but activities still need to be challenging.

Lori Reich, CSULB swim program director and Camp Nugget assistant director, said she believes the ratio of campers to counselors makes a big difference in everyone’s experience.

“I believe children don’t do well in other camps when the staff is unprepared to teach or when there are like, 30 campers per counselor,” Reich said. “It would be difficult to handle the behavioral issues we’re able to handle.”

To further maintain safety during activities, each student has his or her own folder of medical records, medications and other information provided by each parent, according to Lavay.

Reich said that because each child has different abilities, they each require different treatment.

“You really have to look at them as individuals,” she said.

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