Hart of Autism brings new experiences to children
Mary Beth Sallee
Hart Co. News-Herald
This summer, laughter and learning has filled the air for many children who attended a summer camp. This especially rang true for members of Hart of Autism.
According to the organization’s website, Hart of Autism (HOA) is a support group for educators, parents, and children with special needs. While adults come together monthly to offer support for one another and learn about local resources, children participate in fun, therapeutic activities to build social, behavioral, and communication skills.
On June 28-30, HOA hosted its “Adventures Within” Day Camp, and July 19-21 was the organization’s “Out & About” Day Camp. Both camps provided unique opportunities for children to learn about businesses and various skills.
“This is our 12th year of doing the camps,” said Stephanie Turner, who is the founder, president, and a parent of HOA. “Adventures Within is targeted towards our younger population. This camp occurs at Munfordville Baptist. We create opportunities for our campers to learn and grow in a safe environment. We focus on academic and social skills. Out & About focuses within the community in which we live and love. We intentionally plan for interactions that grow all people in the community, not just our campers. The interactions are beneficial for all involved.”
Andrew Tucker, Manager of Green River Valley Water District (GRVWD), was one of the visitors during the Adventures Within Camp. He presented a PowerPoint presentation that had many photos explaining the spring, water plant, and the GRVWD crew fixing leaks. Campers also had the opportunity to explore some of the tools and equipment used by GRVWD.
“It was an honor to be asked to be a part of the children’s week,” Tucker said. “The excitement of them asking questions brought tears to my eyes. To sit with them and show them how we operate the equipment made me feel proud that I can serve my community in more ways than one. The children knew so many of the questions I asked, and it allowed them to think about where their water comes from when they turn on the faucet or flush the toilet. Most of all, I think they enjoyed water for the pool.”
Christa Middleton and Molly Caswell are the Therapists and Camp Coordinators for HOA. Both stated that the camps provide great opportunities for everyone involved.
“Getting out in the community is a win-win for businesses and campers,” Middleton said. “We created opportunities for everyone to learn. The support we received while out and about is a huge testament to the fine people of Hart County.
“Hart of Autism camp represents exposure, opportunities, and hands-on learning for both the community and campers,” added Caswell.
Jessica May’s son, Jake, attended the Adventures Within Camp. She said that her son loves attending camp.
“He counts down the days on the calendar,” May said. “He always gets so excited to see all his friends. His absolute favorite was the day the big machinery trucks came. He just loves them. As a parent, having a place he can go and have fun playing with his friends and learning skills in a safe environment means everything. That is what Hart of Autism gives us. I can’t begin to describe how thankful and blessed we are to be a part of this wonderful and supportive group.”
Salli Meredith’s son, Ashton, attended the HOA Out & About Camp, which included visiting the Hart County Sheriff’s Office, McDonalds, Save-A-Lot, Grace Nutrition, Hart County Ambulance Service, El Mazatlan, Green River Valley Water Plant, P.S. The Hair Company, Neville Family Dentistry, Feeder Restaurant, the Hart County Animal Shelter, and The Brew House.
At first, Ashton was very nervous about attending camp because of going places he had never been, carrying a wallet, ordering and paying for his food, and overall just the unknowns. However, he had an amazing time.
“He has loved sharing his experiences with everyone,” Meredith said. “When I saw the videos, I could not believe that he had made and tried a blackberry tea at Grace Nutrition and a chai at The Brew House. He especially loved the chai and can’t wait to back. I would never have dreamed he would try one, much less love it. At Neville Dentist office, he laid in the chair and allowed them to examine his teeth. Ashton especially enjoyed the trip to the Hart County Animal Shelter and feeding the dogs treats.”
“It was such a blessing to me to pick him up each day and hear him gushing with stories about his day and to hear him continue to share his stories with others,” Meredith continued. “My family cannot thank all the businesses who were so welcoming and who patiently engaged with the kids to teach them about their roles in the community. We would also like to thank Hart of Autism and our supportive community for providing these opportunities to the kids. As Ashton has grown older, the thought of finding a job has been scary for him, but he came home with ideas for jobs that he thinks he can do.”
The Hart of Autism group meets on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. CT at Munfordville Baptist Church. For additional information, visit the organization’s website at www.hartofautism.org.
“Hart of Autism thanks Molly Caswell and Christa Middleton for giving our kids a phenomenal summer camp experience. Whether our kids took part in the Adventures Within or Out & About camp, these teachers worked so hard to provide fun, educational, and safe experiences for our kids. We are so blessed to have such amazing teachers work with our kids for so many years! The kids love these two ladies and so do we!”