Volunteering is a family affair

September 17th, 2009    Author: Staff Report    Filed Under: Community

While most kids spent their summer lounging by the pool and soaking up the rays, Ellen Brown volunteered her time at Stepping Stones Center’s summer Day Camp for children with disabilities in Indian Hill.

For Brown, who is a senior at Purdue University studying biology education, volunteering at Stepping Stones is a family affair.

“My mom and aunt volunteered here when they were my age, and my cousin George is a camper here,” she says.

Camper Robbie Frierson dances with volunteer Ellen Brown during the summer day camp.
Brown grew up in South Korea and Japan, where her dad worked for JPMorgan Chase. Her family often spent summers in Cincinnati, where they own a summer home in Hyde Park. After three years of volunteering at the Day Camp, Brown says she has so much fun enjoying summer activities like boating and crafts, and has learned a lot from the campers by trying to see things through their perspective.

"When the Cincinnati Zoo came and showcased some of their animals, the campers were so excited. They asked great questions and had a blast!"

"It opens up a whole new world, being at camp. Whatever life struggles you are going through are left at the door. When you're here, it's about making it worthwhile for the kids," says Brown.

Brown also enjoys forming relationships with the campers.

"Every year I love dancing with Robbie." Robbie, a camper in the Cicadas, the group which Brown usually works with, loves singing Mariah Carey songs and dancing. It is memories like these, which Brown says, have kept her coming back to Stepping Stones.

Stepping Stones Center is a 46-year-old United Way partner agency dedicated to increasing independence, improving lives and promoting inclusion for children and adults with disabilities. It started as Greater Cincinnati's first summer day camp for children with disabilities in 1963.

Today the $2.6 million agency has year-round programs for children and adults with all levels of disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, cognitive deficits, multiple disabilities and medically fragile conditions.

The summer camp program serves close to 350 children and adults a season. Teen summer day camp volunteers are needed throughout the summer to act as buddies to children with disabilities.

For information on Stepping Stones, contact Sarah Bosley Woeber at (513) 831-4660 ext 26, sarah.bosley@steppingstonescenter.org or www.steppingstonescenter.org.
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