Summer Camp Offers Yachad Program for Children with Special Needs

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JCC summer camp: YACHAD program
Cameron Family

DSC_0399-webFor Osa Cameron and her family, life has been a series of challenges. Osa’s mother, Abie had polio when she was 9 and uses a scooter. Her father, Devin, suffered a head injury when he was 16, and uses a wheelchair. Both had dreams of getting married, buying a house and having children.

“When Osa came along,” said Frank Cameron, Devin’s father, “they were just delighted as all get out. She’s just their little baby girl.”

From the very beginning, the family knew that Osa would need extra help in navigating life as she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. The family came together – Abie’s mother and Devin’s parents, Frank and Julie Cameron – to ensure Osa would have the support she needed to be as successful as possible.

Abie and Devin are strong advocates for their daughter and ensure that she has the opportunities she needs to grow, but Frank and Julie also play a major role. Since they are retired enducators, they have the time to help out a great deal and the patience to give Osa the attention she needs and to work with her.

Abie’s mother and other family help when they can, but, since they live in Las Vegas, are not often nearby to lend a hand.

While family is crucial to Osa, they cannot provide the social opportunities to engage with children her own age. That’s where the Jewish Community Center comes in.

Frank and Julie are long-time members of the JCC, and their children grew up at the Center. “All of our children were on swim teams and lifeguards,” Frank said. “Even Osa’s daddy was a lifeguard. We think it’s real important to learn to swim.” Their children also took ballet, gymnastics and drama here. “We just feel like it’s a good program,” he added.
So when the Camerons found out about the JCC’s Yachad immersion program for special needs children, they enrolled Osa. “The camp program has been wonderful because it infuses Osa with all the other kids her age,” said Julie. “This is actually her third summer in it and we love it.”

Now 4-1/2, Osa has “also been able to stay with a lot of the same children,” she continued, and has made friends. In fact, as the family went out onto the JCC campus to have the photo taken for this article, Osa was greeted happily by a group of friends who have known her “from the time she was very little.”

Being included in normal activities has increased her vocabulary, communication skills and sociability, all of which are important, Julie said, “because she’s got to be able to get along with and communicate with her peers.”

In a recent issue of Community, there was an article about Yachad that Frank said “was a perfect description of an inclusive program, and that’s the way it’s been with Osa. She does have assistance during the day, but at the same time, she’s given the opportunity to be herself and to be with the other children.” She even takes the same swimming lessons at the other children.

One of the biggest advantages Frank sees is “the requirement to be in the environment.” For example, at home, Osa is a very picky eater. At camp, when the other children eat, Osa eats, too, whatever her mother packed for her lunch.

The camp pictures posted on Facebook tell the story too. Osa is part of circle time. She climbs the slide and interacts with the other children. All the little things they do are part of Osa’s education and the Camerons know that JCC Camp is the right place for her.


By supporting the Annual Federation Campaign, you can ensure that children whose families have limited resources can attend summer camp, learn to swim and enjoy all the benefits and opportunities camp offers.

Give the Gift of Camp Today


  • 625 campers, 20 months to rising 9th graders attended JCC Summer Camp last summer for a total of 2454 camper weeks.
  • 31 children with identified disabilities were served with one-on-one advocates through the Yachad program at JCC Summer Camp.
  • 74 campers attended JCC Summer Camp’s specialized kindergarten program to prepare them to move from preschool to public school.
  • JCC Summer Campers helped grow food in the community garden, were encouraged to taste what they grew, and, through Discover CATCH, learned about “go foods,” “slow foods” and “whoa foods” for healthy eating.

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