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Camps have open arms to special needs

PAWLEYS ISLAND | For nearly forty-five minutes Hannah Parsons focused intently on the lined paper in front of her, scribbling out the morning's greeting from the white board recently in summer camp.

This may seem like a simple task, but it isn't for 14-year-old Hannah, who has autism.

Hannah is one of about 50 children who attend the JOY school at Pawleys Island Presbyterian Church, a free summer program for children and adults with special needs.

JOY stands for Jesus first, Others second & Yourself last. The program started 25 years ago to help children with special needs retain the academic gains they make during the school year.

Several days a week students spend their mornings learning art, music, dance, physical education and academic lessons and then spend their afternoons in recreational activity.

Stumbling over a math problem, Hannah turned to her counselor. In a few minutes, Hannah was able to count out the answers on her fingers. "One, two, three ..." Hannah started.

Program counselors offer a variety of activities that allow the kids to play along depending on their capabilites.

On a recent morning, students tossed around a huge plastic ball a few other threw plastic horseshoes.

Tim Elliott, from Greensboro, N.C., brings his 10-year-old son Julian every year when his family comes down for vacation.

Julian suffered a hemorrhage in his brain a day after he was born and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

"It's just such a treat. He loves the interaction," Elliott said. "When you have these volunteers, it connects special-needs children with the non-special-needs world. In America, you tend to take the special-needs child and you separate them. Here, they're taking them out bowling. The JOY school just kind of gets it."

Funding for the school comes mostly from the Georgetown County United Way, some from the S.C. Knights of Columbus.

The program was started by Rev. Frank Holsclaw and Gail Holsclaw, the parents of two daughters who are disabled in Cleveland, Tenn. They found there were few alternative summer programs for children. The two brought the program with them when they moved to Georgetown County.

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