The Community Partnership's Capable Kids and Families program hosted its first Camp Capable July 13 - 19. The weeklong camp, which served children with disabilities, was spearheaded by CKF director Jean Darnell, who had been dreaming of a camp like this for many years.

The Community Partnership's Capable Kids and Families program hosted its first Camp Capable July 13 - 19. The weeklong camp, which served children with disabilities, was spearheaded by CKF director Jean Darnell, who had been dreaming of a camp like this for many years.

"For a long time we'd wanted to offer a summer camp for our participants and for other children in the community, but for a variety of reasons it just didn't happen," Darnell said. "This past year, I contacted Children's Hospital in St. Louis to see if they could help us. They have their own summer camp that they run each year. They said they couldn't help us, but they gave us the name of an organization that could help us."

Darnell then contacted Kelly Behlmann, executive director of DASA, Disabled Athlete Sports Association in St. Peters. Behlmann agreed to work with the Partnership to put on the camp. DASA not only sent staff, but also sent adaptive bicycles, kayaks and other sports equipment. In addition, Darnell secured Ken Sills, of Ohana Martial Arts in St. Louis, to teach a martial arts class as part of the camp activities. Younger campers enjoyed arts, crafts and other activities at The Community Partnership on Hauck Dr. in the morning, and older campers met at The Centre each afternoon.

Campers spent the week doing everything from swimming, playing basketball, tennis and volleyball, to learning self-defense, doing crafts, and kayaking on Little Prairie Lake, east of Rolla.

Participating in camp activities made it clear to the children, parents and staff that the week was less about special needs and more about having a great time and discovering new strengths.

"When I get a group of kids together in a class, they are no longer kids with special needs - they are martial artists," Sills said. "Learning self-defense is important. I had a great time at Camp Capable, and I hope the kids had fun. That's really what it's all about for the students—discovering a new strength and having a good time while doing it."

Funding for Camp Capable was provided by the Phelps County Regional Medical Center Auxiliary.

"We'd been looking for a grant to fund the camp, and had just been informed that we weren't going to get the grant when we were contacted by Tina Pridgeon, PCRMC Auxiliary director," said Mark Long, the Partnership's development director.

"The Auxiliary has been very generous to the community for many years. They had been challenged by their state-affiliated organization to do a project for children with disabilities," Long said. "After we submitted a proposal to the Auxiliary, they were thrilled to let us know that it fit the criteria, and we were given $5,000 to make the camp happen. We couldn't have done it without their help! We're also grateful to The Centre for allowing us the use of the facility for the week."

Pridgeon said the group, which was chartered in 1950, was pleased that the project fit perfectly with their mission.

"Some of our members volunteered at camp, too," Pridgeon said. "So it was nice that it wasn't just about providing the funding, but we were able to see the faces of the children, too, and enjoy participating in all the events. Knowing that the camp probably wouldn't have happened without our help was also a good feeling. We were happy to see it come to fruition."

Pridgeon said working with The Community Partnership was a positive experience.

"It was pretty seamless," she said. "We had a great time, and we felt the gratitude from the families and from the Partnership. We knew it was good decision to partner with them on this project."

Children and their families spent the last day of camp by swimming, snacking, and sharing stories.

On July 19, a special event took place that the entire community was invited to enjoy. The Partnership's Capable Kids and Families program and Leach Theatre presented a performance by Dancing Wheels, a professional dance company from Cleveland, Ohio that utilizes dancers both with and without disabilities.

"We wanted the children and their families to see the possibilities," said Darnell. "Dancing Wheels is the first fully-integrated dance company in the country. Their performance was absolutely beautiful."

Darnell said that bringing Dancing Wheels to Rolla involved crossing fingers and finding funding.

"We are so thankful to the people, businesses and organizations who realized the importance of getting this group to Rolla to perform. We were able to offer free tickets to anyone who wanted to attend the event."

Leach Theatre was packed for the event as the dancers took the stage.

Underwriters for the performance included Liz and Daryl Schwerdtfeger, Marilyn and Keith Frederick, Bob and Wanda Davis, Brenda and John Brown, Tom and Barb Thomas, Jeff Roberson, J. Kent Robinson, Kenny and Lisa Barnes, Dwayne and Martha Edwards, Dan Hier and Debra Robinson, Brewer Science, Phelps County Bank, St. James Kiwanis, St. James Chamber of Commerce, Forum Dental, Jenna Davis - Acar Real Estate, Inc., Fairgrounds Chevrolet, and Shannon and Adam Birdsong.

The Community Partnership's Capable Kids and Families program serves children with disabilities by offering a lending library of therapeutic equipment, home visits, special events during the year, weekly playgroups in an accessible playroom at 1101 Hauck Dr., and other resources. For more information about The Community Partnership and its programs, find them on facebook or at To donate to the Partnership, contact Mark Long at 573-368-2849 or mail to: The Community Partnership, 1101 Hauck Dr., Rolla, MO 65401.