Summer Camp Fun for All Kids

Photo courtesy of Special Needs Network, Inc.

Danita Blanco of Los Angeles, is an in-home caretaker, a full-time student and mother to a 7-year-old with moderate autism.

So she visited several camps but found that none offered the extra assistance that her son, Sir Warren needed. And so, she was thrilled to find Camp Joe Patton Academy Camp, the only free summer camp in Los Angeles for children with special needs as well as kids without disabilities.

“Camp JPAC has made a difference if both of our lives,” said the 33-year-old. “I just don’t leave my child with anyone. But here, I can trust the staff knowing that my son will be safe and knowing that the skills that he learns he can use later in life.”

Founded by the Special Needs Network, a nonprofit organization that serves kids with disabilities, Camp JPAC is free and offers a safe haven for close to 300 camp-goers ages 5 to 16 to play football, soccer, kickball, bowl and learn to dance. Located in Baldwin Hills at the former site of St. Bernadette Catholic School, Camp JPAC officially kicked off its fourth year last week. This year, campers will also go on fieldtrips to Blue Sky Meadow, the California Science Center and the newly renovated Natural History Museum. The campers are also scheduled to receive a special visit from two National Basketball Association superstars from the Los Angeles Sparks.

The four week camp which ends August 9, offers a four-to-one ratio between students and credentialed behavioral therapists, special education teachers, professional staff and volunteer counselors. Additionally, Camp JPAC creates close to 100 jobs for youth in Los Angeles County under the L.A. County summer jobs program.

Blanco, heard about the camp from her friend who suggested her son would benefit from the social interaction. Sir Warren went to camp last year and thrived.

“I noticed a big difference,” said Blanco. “He is more outgoing and more social. If he is interested in an activity that he wants to do, he will go up to the person and ask what they are doing and if he can help whereas before he wouldn’t do it.  ”Now he talks about his experiences with friends, something he wasn’t able to do before, she said.

“We are so excited about the growth and expansion of Camp JPAC,” said Special Needs Network President and Co-Founder Areva Martin, Esq. “Our new home in Baldwin Hills and our new partnership with organizations like the Los Angeles Community Education Foundation allow us to meet the needs of more kids and to offer diverse programs during camp such as free dental screenings, tai chi classes and additional arts and drama classes. With the number of kids being diagnosed with autism increasing, programs like Camp JPAC are more important than ever.”

Founded in 2005, the mission of the Special Needs Network, Inc. is to raise public awareness about developmental disabilities and to serve as a link between underserved communities, mainstream developmental disability organizations and government institutions. The organization provides educational forums, advocacy training, intervention programs, resources, learning opportunities for parents and care givers of special needs children. For more information or to inquire about an application to enroll into Joe Patton Academy Camp, please contact Special Needs Network at: (323) 291-7100 or email: info@specialneedsnetwork.org.