YWCA Pool Has Been Their Special Haven For the Summer
Dominic Adams, Bay City Times, July 19, 2005
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6-year-old son, Jordan, has Fragile X Syndrome.
The disorder causes autistic behavior, making it hard for Jordan
to learn to talk.
But he has one word down pat. It's "pool."
His enthusiasm for swimming is all due to Camp Meadows, a local
camp for kids like Jordan who have special needs. The camp is in
its 25th year and has been run by Diane Rapson Gabil, a veteran
special education teacher.
"He is just learning to talk and he always says pool. It's
helping him to interact with kids," Kemerer said of the camp.
Kemerer's son is one of 13 children who have been gathering
three days a week at the YWCA on Midland Road. Jordan and other
campers are treated to arts and crafts, recreational and
physical fitness activities - and Jordan's favorite - daily pool
Rapson Gabil, who taught special education for 32 years at
Bangor Edison Elementary School, said this is all part of a
child's summer experience.
"These kids need to be able to say 'I'm going to camp,' and they
need to have that experience," she said. "I figure through 25
years we have probably reached around 200 families in the
This year, Rapson Gabil tried something different. Instead of
having campers swim during community pool time, she reversed it,
inviting the community in during camp hours.
The small change has been a big hit for people like Bay City
resident Joan Sabourin. She took a liking to one little girl.
"I love swimming with the kids and Ashton (Hugo) has taken my
heart," Sabourin said. "I said 'Are you a fish,' and she looked
at me and said, 'No, mermaid."'
It is heart-warming stories such as these that Rapson Gabil said
keep her coming back year after year.
She said although she has a special place in her heart for all
the children she teaches, some of her favorites would be ones
who have Down syndrome.
"In my world Down's kids are God's children," Rapson Gabil said.
"They really show you what's important."
Lori Covaleski's 7-year-old son, Nathan, has Asperger syndrome,
a form of autism.
Covaleski, a Bay City resident, said it helps that Nathan can go
right into the camp after school ends for summer.
"For him and his particular illness it helps to keep him in a
routine," she said. "If he doesn't keep a routine, it's hard
when he goes back."
Amy Grillo's son, Mike, has attended Camp Meadows for at least
five years. Both Mike and Grillo's daughter, Emily, have autism.
"It's priceless because he loves coming here," Grillo said.
"It's priceless to his self-esteem and to his well being."
Mike said he likes coming back to Camp Meadows each year.
"Camp Meadows rocks," he gleamed after spending an hour swimming
As the six-week camp wraps up this week, Rapson Gabil reflects
on how much it has meant to her.
"It keeps me humble," she said. "I think the one thing I really
gain from it is that I learn more from the kids than they do
from me because they act so honestly."
Those interested in volunteering, donating money to the camp or
wanting more information may call the YWCA at 686-4800.
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