TWO SESSIONS of the TAPA summer camp were held this year. Through the gracious donation of his Theresa Foundation Award, New York State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, known for his dedication to the special needs community, donated his gift to provide scholarships for Long Beach Public School students, to attend TAPA, thus enabling those students to attend who otherwise would have been unable.
This year, part of the “Virginia Delegation” of Theresa’s extended family (Aunt Beth, Uncle Art, and cousin Rebecca ), participated as camp volunteers for the 2nd camp session. Going into this experience, the three of us had absolutely no idea what to expect or what we were to do – we were just three able and willing volunteers. Both Arthur and I work with a Geriatric population – talk about the “other end of the spectrum,” and Rebecca had the usual 16 year old baby sitting experiences – but when it came to working with children with “special needs” we were as they say, totally clueless. We had questions: Just what did “special needs” mean? How were we supposed to work with these kids with “special needs?” We were full of lots of questions and a lot of “what if’s” were discussed. However, the three of us were in agreement that in our opinion, everyone on earth has special needs of one kind or another so we figured that with a little experience and coaching from the other volunteers and teachers who knew what they were doing that we’d learn on the job.
As volunteers, we were matched with a child whom we mirrored in attending daily activities including, music, dance, art, drama, and yoga. For one week, we got to step into a completely different world from where we usually live. We were led by gifted teachers who sparked our imaginations’! Their love of the Arts and of others was evident as they worked patiently and joyfully with all of us. Teachers, volunteers and campers alike all shared love, patience, compassion, selflessness and an unconditional acceptance and appreciation of one another’s abilities as we spent quality time enjoying the Arts every day. At TAPA, there was no room or time for pity or sadness – instead we encountered lots of courage, positive spirits and inner strength mostly from the campers. Every day, we the volunteers, came away with the realization that God uses people with “special needs” to teach us all what life is really all about – Loving and helping one another through life on a daily basis. We marveled at the remarkable parents of these “special needs children” for they too had something very important to teach each of us – that there is value in each one of us – we’re all endowed with special gifts that make us who we are and that every one of us is truly a special human being – we all have special needs!
The special session of African Drumming and dance with Guest Artist, Sidiki Conde and his talented assistant Ibraheima was an exhilarating and educational experience in music, dance and African Culture. A special presentation featuring African drumming and dance performed by campers, staff, volunteers and even some of the family members who came to watch was held for parents at the end of each week! The campers were beaming with pride as they all moved and drummed to the beautiful African rhythms! Smiles and laughter were everywhere and echoed throughout the building!
This summers’ TAPA Camp Sessions were a great success and source of satisfaction for all who participated! My family agreed that we got far more from our experience than we gave. We gave our all and were rewarded with the realization that we too felt the love and acceptance from our “special needs” friends. They boldly showed us that we are all people who are just put together in different ways. Each of us, “children” of all ages and abilities, experienced first hand the magic, creativity and self expression that are the Arts. Indeed, TAPA brought out the best in all of us and it was one of those experiences that you just know you’ll never forget! Will we do it again? Absolutely! Come and join us! I promise it will be one of the best gifts you’ve ever given to yourself or another person. “Theresa’s” children and their families were cared for and enriched by this experience! Her spirit was present in every encounter – one the Meyers family will never forget!