When school ends in June, summer fun begins. But finding a day program for school-age children with special needs can require research on the part of parents. The Greater Richmond ARC (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens), provides summer day programs for children ages 5 to 22 who are currently enrolled in school at two locations: Camp Baker, a 22-acre wooded retreat at 7600 Beach Road in Chesterfield County, and at the brand new, centrally located ARCenter at 3600 Saunders Avenue on Richmond's north side.
The Greater Richmond ARC's summer day programs for children are held from June 21 to September 3, 2010 from 8:30 am until 6:00 pm and accept Medicaid MR community-based waivers. Both ARCenter and Camp Baker provide structured and staff-intensive programming Monday through Friday with a wide range of age and skill-appropriate activities.
At Camp Baker, for example, there is an on-site swimming pool, along with horseback riding, bike riding, archery and a variety of outdoor activities, all of which are supervised by a certified instructor. The ARCenter on Richmond's north side is a barrier-free, state-of-the-art facility that opened in May 2010 and has computer and video stations, a library and outdoor recreation area. Swimming is provided at an off-site location.
Participants in ARC summer programs often volunteer in the community as a way to 'give back" while mastering new skills and gaining self esteem. For the past ten years, ARC participants have volunteered at organizations like the SPCA and Meals on Wheels. ARCenter also sponsors its own recycling program for plastic, aluminum cans and paper, with the proceeds used for an activity chosen by the group at the end of the summer.
For many parents, a summer program like that provided by Camp Baker is a "lifesaver", says Katherine Spencer, whose daughter Leander has a severe form of autism and loves activities like swimming. The Spencer's have other children, so enrolling Leander in a Camp Baker program helps them devote time and energy to her siblings.
Spencer describes Camp Baker's environment as "safe and comfortable", especially important for parents as they transition having their children from school to summer schedules. For more information ARC programs, call ARCenter at 804-358-1874 or Camp Baker at 748-4789. ARC's programs are licensed by the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Substance Abuse Services. Camp Baker is also accredited by the American Camping Association.
(Photo: Leander Spencer at Camp Baker in Chesterfield County)