While other youngsters and their buddies gather almost ceremoniously at the opening of Wednesday’s Camp Prov, Unit Leader, Casey Wilson, 18 (right) focuses on communicating with Jamarious “Jammers” Carpenter, 8. Later in the day, Casey helped Jamarious in the swimming pool as well. (Dan Bates/The Herald)

While other youngsters and their buddies gather almost ceremoniously at the opening of Wednesday’s Camp Prov, Unit Leader, Casey Wilson, 18 (right) focuses on communicating with Jamarious “Jammers” Carpenter, 8. Later in the day, Casey helped Jamarious in the swimming pool as well. (Dan Bates/The Herald)

Undaunted by disabilities, kids dive into summer fun at Camp Prov

Tots to 10-year-olds, the kids were clapping their hands, shaking their heads, and “marching, marching” like dinosaurs. Jamarious Carpenter, though, was in his wheelchair.

The 8-year-old, whose nickname is “Jammers,” couldn’t do all the moves most kids were doing in a preschool room at Everett’s Forest Park on Wednesday. All the same, Jamarious was part of the action at Camp Prov, an annual day camp for children with special needs and their siblings.

During the singing and dancing of Camp Prov’s daily “circle time,” 18-year-old Casey Wilson was a one-on-one helper for Jamarious. She gently held the boy’s hands and feet, sang along to the music, and mimicked some of the other children’s movements.

A recent graduate of Henry M. Jackson High School, Wilson was a teen volunteer the past four summers at Camp Prov. She plans to attend Gonzaga University in the fall. This is her first summer as a paid leader working all six weeks at Camp Prov, which each year serves more than 400 children.

The camp is a program of Providence Children’s Center, part of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Now in its 20th year, the camp is supported by the Providence General Foundation and the Providence General Children’s Association, according to Christie Tipton, the Children’s Center manager.

Camp activities include swimming, arts and crafts, nature walks, music and visits to the Forest Park petting farm, all with support for children’s motor and communication development.

Running Camp Prov this year is Jim Phillips, a physical therapist and manager of acute care rehabilitation services for Providence in Everett. He will become the Children’s Center manager when Tipton retires in late August.

Phillips, who has helped at Camp Prov for years, sees teen volunteers return as college students to work as camp leaders. Many, he said, aspire to careers helping children with special needs.

After circle time, Jamarious and the other kids went swimming. The older ones and their helpers swam in the Forest Park’s big indoor pool, while smaller children splashed and played in the shallow pool outside.

Camp leaders don’t disclose the types of disabilities individual children have.

Unit leader Sue Rivord, a teacher working at Camp Prov for her third summer, said campers include children with autism, seizure disorder and cerebral palsy. “You might see children wearing headphones at circle time to block too much sound,” Rivord said.

Jamarious was featured in The Herald in 2014, when he and his grandparents were given a YMCA membership through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In that article, Herald reporter Diana Hefley wrote that Jamarious was born healthy but was assaulted by his father when he was 3½ months old. The man was imprisoned and later died.

Hefley wrote that the abuse, which included a devastating brain injury and broken bones, caused spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which robbed Jamarious of normal muscle function.

“See how Casey has Jammers on his side in the pool?” Phillips said Wednesday. “That helps reduce his tight muscle tone.”

In the small pool, 3-year-old Jovann Lucero stood in the shallows. He was busy pouring water from a plastic container through the center of a ring-shaped toy.

“This is the farthest he’s come into the pool this week,” said Ellie Wicklund, a unit leader working with Jovann.

Wicklund, a 22-year-old from Marysville, has helped at Camp Prov for seven summers. She is an Exceptionality &Disability major at Western Washington University. “I found out what I wanted to do by working here,” Wicklund said.

Tipton and Phillips said one big goal of Camp Prov is to give parents a break. “We encourage them to leave,” Phillips said.

Staysha Lanman was dropping three of her four children at Camp Prov on Wednesday afternoon. The Everett-area woman said her 5-year-old has a sensory processing disorder. The child was accompanied at camp by two siblings, ages 9 and 3.

“The kids have been having a blast,” Lanman said. “When I asked my oldest, Elijah, ‘Did you like it?’ he said ‘No, I loved it.’”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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