For two weeks in Berks County, Aarons Acre’s held its annual summer camp for children with special needs at Schuylkill Elementary School in Leesport. And for certain young people in Leesport, Kutztown and elsewhere, the camp was an opportunity to offer their services, gain experience and learn about these children in a special way.
Aaron’s Acres Summer Camp was held from June 25 to July 6 for special-needs children ages 5-21. The camp centers on various activities such as crafts, swimming, music, horse riding, and doing “acts of kindness” in the community.
Nicholas Snyder, 14, had been going to the camp since he was six. He remembered his first experience well.
“I had fun at camp, it was pretty fun… there was a big white tent, and there was swimming …there was snack, and sometimes the horses came,” he said.
Also working at the camp for years was Nick’s brother, Jacob Snyder, age 18; both come from Reading.
“I first heard about it when Nick started going,” said Jacob Snyder. “He went for two or three years, and then I decided to start volunteering. I had wanted to see what it was all about, and my mom said it would be good for school.”
“I think during the first year I was with Nick—and then I just kept going back,” said Jacob Snyder.
At college, Jacob is majoring in early child education, with a concentration in special education.
The pairing of families at the camp wasn’t a rare occurrence, said Berks camp supervisor Beth Hartz.
“Nick and Jake are not the only two siblings here,” she said. “Nick has probably been here the longest for Berks Camp—and when the siblings are 12 or 14, they start to volunteer.”
Also helping at the camp were Katherine Reimert, from Leesport, and Katelyn Grumbling, from Kutztown. Reimert recently graduated from Alvernia University, and Grumbling graduated last year from Kutztown University.
Reimert heard about the camp from an advisor at Alvernia who “thought I would be a good fit,” she said. Grumbling saw an advertisement in the paper.
“I think it’s so cool to see these kids from day one to the last day and to see how they’ve opened up,” said Grumbling. “They’ve bloomed into their own person.”
“One child I worked with—he wouldn’t say hi,” said Grumbling, about a 15-year-old boy. “He was very shy at the beginning. Now he just walks around and waves hi to everyone he sees!”
Reimert and Grumbling were more than grateful for their experience. Both graduated with degrees in education— Grumbling in both elementary and special education, and Reimert in elementary education—and both are seeking teaching work at the moment.
“I don’t remember a day, or even an activity, where I wasn’t cracking up over one of them, over something they said or did that just made me laugh,” said Grumbling. “It just brings a lot of happiness here.”
“I’ve learned so much in two weeks that I might not have gotten in the classroom,” said Reimert. “The whole two weeks have been memorable. Some people might not understand that, but they need to have this experience. There’s so much growth with these kids, and I get to interact with them.”