Camp FRIEND provides fun for special needs families

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Neighbors | Alexis Bartolomucci.Children got their hands painted so they could make handprint flowers during the craft day of Camp FRIEND on June 29.


Neighbors | Alexis Bartolomucci.Children painted colors on their hands to make flowers on a canvas during Camp FRIEND on June 29 at Boardman Park.


Neighbors | Alexis Bartolomucci.One of the children at Camp FRIEND painted a background on his canvas.


Neighbors | Alexis Bartolomucci.Tracy and her son painted a flower on canvas during craft time at Boardman Park as part of Camp FRIEND.


Neighbors | Alexis Bartolomucci.One of the children at Camp FRIEND painted brown spots on his canvas as he prepared to make flowers out of his handprints.


Neighbors | Alexis Bartolomucci.Children used acrylic paints and canvas to create handprint flowers during craft day during the Camp FRIEND family week.


The Autism Society of Mahoning Valley hosted a new summer program for families on the autism spectrum and other special needs.

Camp FRIEND is a week long event that occurred on June 26-30 and took place around different parts of the Mahoning Valley. There was an activity planned each day for the families and children to enjoy together.

For the past three years, Camp FRIEND was a day camp in which parents could drop their children off each day and have them participate in the planned activities. In the fourth year, the Autism Society decided to try something new - a family week and families could pick and choose what activities they wanted to enjoy.

“To get kids out and doing activities, it’s so important for the kids because they learn independence,” said Robin Suzelis, Board President of Autism Society of Mahoning Valley.

“We really try to organize these events to be sensory friendly for our families,” said Tracy Marciano, Camp Coordinator.

One of the most successful trips was the trip to Kennywood on June 28. The Autism Society was able to get a charter bus and take several families to the park and make a fun day out of it.

“I had four families last night call me to thank me,” said Marciano about the Kennywood trip.

On June 29, families went to Boardman Park to get an art lesson from Kristen Kantounatakis. The children were able to paint a canvas and use their hands to create flowers.

The week came to an end as the families took a trip to Wagon Trails Animal Park. The Autism Society looks forward to hosting the Camp FRIEND event each summer and allowing children with special needs and their families to get out and enjoy activities planned specifically for them.

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