By Megan Nichole Broome
Jordan Barnes grinned widely with excitement as he rushed to the emerald green pasture to visit the llamas, buffalo and goats frolicking about at the Runnin Wild Farm in Silver Creek. This is one of many fun-filled activities kids with special needs experience at Camp Goodtimes.
Since its launch in 1988, Camp Goodtimes has been a way for developmentally challenged kids to express themselves and reduce their anxiety.
“When they’re happy, their anxiety is down,” described Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Allred.
Allred has worked with the Special Olympics for 26 years, and this inspired him to become a counselor for Camp Goodtimes.
Being around animals is one great way to reduce anxiety, so campers are excited to visit Runnin Wild Farm in Silver Creek and see all the unique animals they have.
Owners Andrew and Mary Ellen Heaner have generously allowed Camp Goodtimes to visit their farm for the past five years.
With 2,300 acres of land, it is no surprise that a variety of animals are represented. Along with the llamas, buffalo, goats, donkeys and horses, exotic animals like ostriches and zebras happily graze on the beautiful landscape. They even have zonkeys, which are half zebra and half donkey.
Campers are overjoyed to see these different animals and express their excitement.
Camper Thomas Chestnut, age 19, said his favorite part of camp is “seeing friends and looking at animals,” while Jordan Barnes, age 13, said he likes playing sports, especially basketball, and riding horses.
The camp would not be possible without the amazing help from camp counselors who volunteer their time to support autism awareness.
Grace Rush is a retired teacher of 40 years for special needs children from the Pepperell school system, so she has been more than willing to donate her time as Camp Coordinator for the last 20 years.
After working in the Floyd County School System so long, Rush expressed her excitement at being able to see some familiar faces at Camp Goodtimes.
For counselor Artie Barrett, the cause is close to her heart because of her special needs daughter. She has helped with Camp Goodtimes for 20 years and explained she “wanted to help other kids in that situation.”
Rush explained that 30 to 35 kids attend the camp each year. They do fun and different activities each day including swimming, bowling, crafting and playing sports.
Campers also go to the public library to hear story time and have picnics when the weather is beautiful.
Each year, Camp Goodtimes takes the kids on a field trip to a unique and exciting place. This year, campers are going to the Copper Creek Sunflower Festival in Calhoun.
Grace Rush explains that breakfast and lunch are generously provided by the Floyd County School System as part of the Summer Feeding Program.
In order to allow Camp Goodtimes to continue helping special needs children, it is vitally important to grow sponsors in order to raise funding to allow the best experience possible for campers. With this funding, Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation creates scholarship funds to help families of special needs kids send their kids to Camp Goodtimes, who could not afford to do so otherwise.
Camp Goodtimes hosts ages 6 to 21 and runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and there are still two more weeks to register for July 5-8 and July 11-15.
Also, check out the camp guide at rfpra.com for information on other exciting camps offered this summer.