KidsPeace provided another
summer filled with fun and games for 150 children teens on the Autism Spectrum.
Sarah's Smile is a popular camp-like day program that offers autistic children
the opportunity to have fun and increase social skills in a safe and nurturing
environment. The groups go on field trips, play games, make wonderful art,
interact with caring staff and make many friends.
"This was a great
summer for the kids," said Program Manager of Community Autism Services
and Blended Case Management Paige Keeter. "We brought the older kids up to
the Orchard Hills Campus every week to give them a changed of scene and a lot
of room to run and play." Competitive games of Capture the Flag were great
fun and became eagerly anticipated weekly events between the Lions and the
Alligators. It was so popular, Paige added, that one boy who moved out west
during camp called her to ask who captured the flag the next week.
Sarah's Smile was able to
accommodate 126 children a day, which required careful planning by staff to
ensure that vacations were factored in to provide some camp to as many kids as
possible. The children, who attended four days a week, filled 14 classrooms at
the KidsPeace CDCRT located on Broadway in Bethlehem. Paige was delighted that
80% of the staff were returning from the previous year, which speaks well of
the program. Many have been counselors for many years, moving up in title as
they complete college and receive certifications. "They form relationships
with the children and with each other," Paige continued, "which only
makes the experience more meaningful for everyone involved."
Each week, the classes go
on field trips that educate and are very enjoyable. In addition to trips to the
more rural Orchard Hills Campus, the kids went to several great places. They
visited Flint Hill farms where they learned about milking cows, making butter
and cheese and what dairy farms are all about. They also went bowling at the
Rose Bowl in Allentown and got to attend a day game of the Iron Pigs baseball
team. The week before the game, they took a tour of Coca Cola Stadium to see
where the game would be played, where they would sit and how the facility
operated inside and out. They participated in an onsite petting zoo and had a
carnival to mark the last day of camp. There were moon bounces, popcorn, cotton
candy, snow cones, a dunk tank and games they could play for prizes. It was a
great day for the kids and staff.
The kids and staff played
their last capture the flag game on the day before the carnival and had a
picnic at Orchard Hills. Paige invited KidsPeace associates who do not
typically interact with the kids to attend the picnic because their support
throughout the summer and the entire year make it possible to serve these
wonderful kids. She paired staff members up with kids as lunch buddies, and new
relationships were formed that allowed the kids to ask lots of questions and
meet yet more caring KidsPeace employees.
For More Information
As this summer closes,
Paige is planning for next summer's Sarah Smile program. "Each year we
hope to expand to accommodate more children," according to Paige.
"The kids love it and so do the parents, who are great supporters."
There are always many more applicants than there are spaces, so Paige keeps a
list of interested participants throughout the year and always sends prior
attendees invitations to apply for the following summer. The mailing is sent
out in late January, and the spots are all filled by March 1.
To receive more information
on Sarah's Smile Summer Program, contact Paige Keeter at 610-799-7357 or email