Each participant has some type of a disability including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder from physical or sexual abuse, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, blindness, deafness, obsessive-compulsive disorder, intellectual disabilities, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and diabetes.
The youngest camper is 5 years old, and the oldest is 35 and was grandfathered in after participating with Empower Me for each year of its existence.
“At Empower Me, it’s not about a disability. It’s about recognizing we are all different, and different is OK. It’s about giving each individual the opportunity to celebrate the gifts they were given. Every child here enjoys the same things any other child doe – sports, arts and crafts, water play activities and just being around friends who have similar interests. That is what this camp is all about,” said Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill.
Empower Me is currently in its third week of camp. The first week was talent week, where each team of campers put together various skits and sang songs for a talent show, and last week was cowboy week.
“Because of the rain, we did not get a chance to go over to the National Junior High Finals Rodeo. Instead, a group of the competitors came to us. They set up various rodeo stations in the gymnasium, and our campers got to rotate through them. The competitors then had the chance to participate in our end of the day circle time and they loved it. We are grateful to the National Junior Rodeo competitors and their families for a wonderful afternoon,” Hill said.
The current week is sensory week with all kinds of “ooey-gooey” activities planned, including shaving cream fights, making slime and riding down a slip-n-slide with noodles, ketchup, chocolate syrup and pudding. The group will have a special visit from a Lebanon Fire Department fire truck Thursday and the Nashville Predators Foundation on Friday.
Hill said Empower Me currently has more than 150 children on the waiting list for this summer’s camp and are still counting as some families continue to reach out to the organization.
Empower Me is currently in a capital campaign to raise funds to build a new facility on South Hartmann Drive so it can accommodate more children during the summer and offer a year-round adult program and other recreational opportunities. To learn more about the organization, visit empowermecenter.com.