Sertoma Camp Endeavor

Sertoma Camp Endeavor

Social and Personal Growth for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth

BY ANITA TODD-WHITAKER

In Dundee, there’s a special place that many locals don’t know exists. There’s even a chance that many citizens of the small town aren’t aware of the group of buildings on the shores of one of its many lakes. But, sixty or so deaf or hard of hearing children would know that the answer is Sertoma Camp Endeavor. That’s because every summer, the students from St. Augustine’s School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing take the three hour trip south to spend time on Lake Josephine.

“We plan all year for the kids to come to visit during the summer,” said Thelma Henry, Camp Endeavor board member and LaSertoma member. “They stay for a short time but it takes months to plan and all year to raise money for their scholarships.”

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The mission of the Sertoma Camp, which opened in 1992, is to provide an education program for deaf and hard of hearing youth that promotes social and personal growth, environmental awareness, independence and citizenship; and provide a yearround camping facility for all other special needs children’s groups and organizations. The Camp is privately supported, non-profit educational summer camp program designed and organized to serve the deaf, hard of hearing, their hearing brothers and sisters, and hearing children with deaf or hard of hearing family members.

The group in charge of the 30+plus acre camp is the Winter Haven Sertoma. Formed more than 100 years ago, Sertoma clubs are located around the nation and are made up of volunteers who would like to improve the quality of life for those at risk or impacted by hearing loss through education and support. LaSertoma is a national organization with similar goals for women.

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In addition to helping out during camp, Henry is responsible for calendaring requests from various groups that rent the cabins and buildings year round. The money raised helps provide scholarships for those who can’t afford to pay for the two-week camp. Ninetynine percent of the campers attend on scholarship.

Henry said that the children and teenagers enjoy their structured time at the camp.

“We keep them busy with all kinds of water sports, archery, horseback riding, arts and crafts … things like that,” Henry said. “They don’t get bored while they are here.” They also participate in basketball, campfires, canoeing, a challenge course, a climbing wall, dance, drama and cultural arts, fishing, games, hiking, mentoring, nature study, orienteering, outdoor living skills, a ropes course, storytelling, swimming and volleyball.

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“Because most of the volunteers don’t know sign language, it’s hard to communicate with the kids,” said Mimi LePere, board member. “Even so, just watching them – whether it’s during an actual activity or during dinner time with one another – their pleasure is obvious on their faces and in their voices. They clap their feet and hands when they are really happy.”

Most of the counselors are also deaf and serve as positive role models for the children.

Until this last year, the entire group was broken down into two smaller groups which attended only one week. This year, the group will remain combined and will stay at Sertoma Camp Endeavor for two weeks from July 7 through July 20.

“Last year, we had 57 campers,” Henry said. “This year, our goal is 75.”

For ways to help the group in providing scholarships, please visit the website at www.sertomacampendeavor.net.

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