Department of Parks and Recreation diversifying camp counselor program

The department hired its first ever counselor with special needs.

By KAHRA BUSS

Each summer, the Department of Parks and Recreation hosts a variety of summer programs that meet the needs of all Moorestown youth. From the summer parks program and summer theater to specialized camps that focus on the numerous specialties offered through the department, there are a wide variety of opportunities made available to local children.

One of the most amazing things about Moorestown Parks and Recreation programs is the legacy that each camper leaves and the legacy that turns into leadership. Each year, new 4- and 5-year-olds enroll in the Moorestown Parks and Recreation camps and many of them come back year after year until they age out of the programs. When 12-year-olds leave the folds of the summer parks program, they become the waiting list of 13-year-olds vying for counselor in training positions. Counselors in training are often former campers who spent their childhood playing in the summer sun under the watchful eye of Moorestown Parks and Recreation staff, who often were former campers themselves.

When the counselors in training turn 16, suddenly the pile of applications to be camp counselors is so high, recreation staff can barely see past it. Each year, the recreation summer staff is filled by Moorestown youth who want to share their common experiences with new, younger campers. Interviewees often respond to the question, “Why do you want to be a counselor?” by saying, “I grew up in this camp, and I looked up to the counselors, and I want other children to have that same experience.”

This year, the department is very excited to announce the hiring of one of its long-time campers Amanda Fletcher, who has attended the special needs program since its inception. Amanda and her siblings, Robert and Jimmy, have all attended the Moorestown recreation summer programs. This year, Amanda, who has Downs Syndrome, is the first camp counselor with special needs to be hired by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Amanda will be working with the summer theater program, which will take place at South Valley School this year.

For many years, Amanda has participated in a wide variety of programs offered through Moorestown High School to include the work-study program offered to special needs students. Amanda has spent time working in places like TJ Maxx, the Moorestown High School coffee shop and with Margie Bard and her special needs workplace training programs. Amanda has gained experience that has prepared her to work as a camp counselor this summer with the summer theater program. She is excited to share her positive experiences with other children who will be attending. Amanda will then spend her afternoons in the special needs summer camp which serves campers up to age 21.

The Moorestown Department of Parks and Recreation takes a great deal of pride in the wide variety of summer programs it offers to Moorestown’s youth. It’s pride stems from not just in the outstanding quality of the programs themselves, but also the outstanding quality of its campers and staff. These programs are a true representation of this community. The legacy of these long-standing programs, as well as the leadership traits that the campers-turned-counselors offer the next generation of camp-goers, exemplifies the strength of these community based camps.

For information about the Department of Parks and Recreation Summer programming series, visit the Township website at www.moorestownrec.com and search the youth, teen and special needs programs to find the program that is just right for your future counselor.