Campers find ability amid disability

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Mia Ahner of Jasper, 10, left, helped guide Abi Byrd of Huntingburg, 7, around the walking path outside of Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium in Jasper during a disabilities awareness program sponsored by Generations AngelWorx on Monday morning. Nearly 40 children attending the Tri-County YMCA’s summer day camp in Jasper participated in the program, where they were split into groups and each child was assigned a disability. More photos from the event can be found here.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Ten-year-old Ciera Morey had to be reminded not to use her left arm while trying to pour a cup of water Monday morning. Even though the Jasper girl’s left arm was contained inside her shirt, she kept using this arm to help balance the bottle from which she poured the water.

Many children struggled with this task as part of a disabilities awareness session put on by the Generations AngelWorx program at the Tri-County YMCA’s summer day camp at Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium in Jasper in the morning. An afternoon session was held at the YMCA in Ferdinand.

About 40 children from the day camp in Jasper took part in the activities that simulated disabilities. The children were split into groups and each child was assigned a disability. Some were given walkers and their ankles were bound together to prevent them from taking large steps. Others were blindfolded and some, like Ciera, were put in shirts with one sleeve pinned to the collar to keep them from using one arm. Those who were not blindfolded helped those who were, acting as their guides.

“If you are a guide, it is very important to communicate with your vision-impaired person,” Generations, staff member Alma Kramer announced to the children.

The children did just that as they walked outside, pointing out cracks and bumps in the sidewalk to those who couldn’t see them.

Dre Boyd, 6, didn’t like being unable to see and was a little scared. Jasmyn Morey, 9, reassured him that she would lead him the right way.

“It’s OK, Dre,” Jasmyn, of Jasper, said. “I’m your guide to help you walk.” As he felt the texture of the ground change beneath his feet when he stepped off the sidewalk, Dre, also of Jasper, responded, “Are we on grass?”

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
A balloon flew out of the mouth of Maddy Burgan of Dubois, 6, as she attempted to blow it up and tie it with the use of only one arm Monday morning at Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium in Jasper. Maddy had to attempt the balloon task while wearing a shirt with one sleeve pinned to the collar to prevent her from using that arm.

Generations has been offering the disabilities awareness program for four years but usually does it when school is in session. This was the first time the program was given at a summer camp.

The children did a variety of activities to show them how difficult everyday tasks can be with a disability. One activity included opening jars to sort the items they contained by color. The children worked together on this. Many of those using one arm needed the help of those who were blindfolded to open the jars, while those who were blindfolded needed help sorting the items.

Those who were given walkers to use often found themselves falling behind the group. Seth Eckert, 10, was one of these children. The Jasper boy tried to quicken his speed in an attempt to catch up with the other children.

“Wait for me!” he yelled. “Why am I always last?” Seth later said that having to use the walker was horrible. “There was a wrapping thing around (my ankles) and I could barely move my feet.”

Ben Woods, 8, didn’t find his disability of using only his left arm to be as difficult as those who were unable to see.

“It’s hard for him,” Ben, of Jasper, said, pointing to his blindfolded partner. “I use my left hand as much as my right hand if I’m not writing, and we’re not writing, so I’m fine.”

The program ended with presentations by adults Ryan Kempf of Bretzville and Rachel Buechler of Jasper. The two spoke to the children about what it is like to live with a disability. Their presentations stressed that they don’t necessarily live with disabilities, but rather with different abilities. Kempf, who has cerebral palsy, demonstrated how he bowls differently, using a ramp from his wheelchair rather than standing like most people would.

The children listened attentively to the speakers as they talked about their participation in the Indiana Special Olympics earlier this month.

Their faces lit up, eyes wide, as the two speakers showed the hardware they received at the competition, three gold medals for Kempf, two for wheelchair races and one for the softball throw, and a silver medal for Buechler, also earned in the softball throw. Buechler explained to the children that her disability is not physical, like Kempf’s, but rather that she has difficulties learning.

Christine Kleaving, who oversees the YMCA summer day camps, said having the speakers helped the children to better understand people with disabilities.

“I think sometimes people just assume that if a person has a disability they can’t do something, but letting the kids know that they can do stuff and you don’t need to judge them on that, but rather help them out, was a good thing,” Kleaving said.

Contact April Dittmer at

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