All Abilities Drama Camp set to perform new show Friday

Published 9:26 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

All Abilities Drama Camp is an inclusive program in its ninth year which was created for youth and adults with disabilities.

At 11 a.m. Friday, campers will perform a space-themed play at the Jessamine Early Learning Village, located at 851 Wilmore Road.

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Featuring a galaxy battle where a planet believes it is in for the fight of a lifetime as an invading spaceship approaches, one fighter stands out from the rest and wants to use his talent and ability to talk it out instead.

AADC’s board of directors, Andrea Nielsen, Anna Brannen, Tonia Mitchell and Julie Sharon, work each year to embrace the gifts of their campers and volunteers while providing opportunities to express themselves through the arts all while accounting for each individual’s skills, personalities and abilities.

“The program is one week each summer, half-day from 9 a.m. to noon,” Nielsen said. “The campers have four days to rehearse and put together the performance for that Friday at the end of the week. However, the board of directors and volunteer staff work on planning the next session year-round.”

Nielsen said time is spent each year creating a theme for the camp, as well as planning activities and ways to create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.

Originally sponsored by Special People in Catholic Education with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, the camp had a strong connection with the Jessamine Early Learning Village by sharing its vision to include and provide for children of all abilities. Quickly realizing resources and needs not available at its former location, the Jessamine Early Learning Village became a clear option. With a large number of the camp’s staff coming from the school, and campers willing to travel the short distance to a new location, AADC moved locations where it also found support from Jessamine County Schools.

“Our first year, we had a total of 44 campers and 30 volunteers,” Nielsen said. “We started with a smaller number in order to ensure we could successfully meet the needs of all of our campers. Over the years, as word of mouth carried, we added participants. With each year we made certain the number of campers correlated with the number of volunteers available to provide the support for everyone, as well as inclusion (in order) to be successful. Just as word of mouth has increased the number of campers, we have fortunately had the same success with volunteers.”

Volunteers, Nielsen said, are a mixture of parents, college and high school students and even teachers giving up a week of their summer break to participate with AADC.

Regina Schmutte, a mother of one of the campers at AADC, said fighting for inclusion can be tiresome, but AADC is a place she doesn’t have to fight for things to finally be right.

“Too many people want to fight against inclusion,” Schmutte said. “Honestly, sometimes, many times, I have just gotten tired of having to beg for something that should just be. This camp is that!”

Nielsen said the community has continued to embrace the camp throughout the years.

“We have community members attend camp as volunteers, send their children to camp, provide resources and snacks for volunteers, provide cake and cupcakes for our end of the week celebration, etc,” Nielsen said. “We have a number of community members that also attend our play each year. Employees from the school system, people from local businesses, local politicians and clergy all converge upon AADC to watch a simple play that reminds us all the importance of acceptance and to celebrate what makes each of us unique.

“AADC represents everything that inclusion should look like across our communities. It values each individual for who they are and their own uniqueness.”

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