Spike Appearances – Variety Club

Let the “fun” shine in (An event that featured Spike the Trophy) was the title of the following article from the Times Herald who covered the Variety Club Camp’s 9th Annual Sunshine Games. 

Camper Janette Yost hugs Spike the Trophy at the Variety Club Camp

Camper Janette Yost hugs Spike the Trophy at the Variety Club Camp

“For the last 60 years, the Variety Club Camp & Developmental Center has served local children with disabilities by providing them with a safe, fun place to participate in educational and recreational activities with peers.

The 80-acre facility in Worcester is home to day and overnight camps, as well as extended school year programs that help foster the growth of children ages 5 to 21 who have mild to moderate special needs.

The focus at Variety Club has always been on fun, a point never more evident than on Friday afternoon when the campers took part in the 9th Annual Sunshine Games, an Olympic-style event started in 2000 following the death of former camp counselor Annie Madden.

“Annie’s family put together the Sunshine Games as a way to honor her memory after she was killed in a traffic accident in 1999. They wanted to do something special for the camp,” said camp director of operations Steve Wilmot.

“So it’s really like a big celebration with a carnival, recreational atmosphere. There are 14 different areas the kids get to go to with activities to try.” 

The campers were separated into teams, rotating between the 14 stations on 15 minute intervals. Some of the activities for the day included basketball, volleyball, kickball, and an obstacle course. Campers were also given an opportunity to soak one of their counselors in a dunk tank, take a train ride around the campus and of course, break for ice cream.

Tim Sullivan, who teaches special education in the Pennridge school district and is in his second year as a counselor at Variety Club, said the Sunshine Games is a great way to give the kids a break and reward them for all the hard work they do at the camp, as well as provide a positive atmosphere to make new friends.

“We actually do school work here at the camp through the Extended School Year program, so this is definitely a nice break from the work they have to do there,” Sullivan said. “This is a good chance for them to interact with the other kids in the camp and meet people, while participating in all the fun activities.”

Sullivan said the interaction with the other kids is especially important, because it can help show each of the campers that they aren’t different from everyone else just because they have a disability.

“It is definitely important for them to integrate with the other kids in their schools and such,” Sullivan said. “But here they can take a step back and say ‘hey, I have a disability, but there’s other kids like me to connect with,’ and that’s important too.”

Mick Alegado, a 14-year old day camper in his first year at Variety Club, agreed, saying he enjoyed being around all of the other campers. He was also quick to name his favorite part of the camp, answering without hesitation.

“I’m glad I get to make new friends and play with the other kids,” Alegado said.

And his favorite camp activity?

“I like to go in the pool,” he said with a smile.

To learn more about the Variety Club Camp & Developmental Center, visit www.varietyphila.org/club-camp.