FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2004
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
MUW instructor helps design camp
curriculum to be distributed to all YMCAs
COLUMBUS, Miss. – Mississippi University for Women instructor Ellen
Jackson was one of three physical education and special education
professionals who designed the curriculum for an inclusive summer camp
program for children with and without disabilities that eventually will
be distributed to all YMCAs.
The pilot program titled Project Gonzo is a partnership between Clay
Aiken’s foundation for children with developmental disabilities and
YMCAs in Olathe, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Concord, N.C. The purpose
of the program is to provide children with developmental disabilities
the same camp experience as children without disabilities.
Jackson said, “Special education was Clay Aiken's major area of study.
His career as a performer is taking him in a new direction, but it has
also made it possible for Clay to support this project that is close to
As a former camp counselor, Aiken noticed that children with special
needs were unable to participate in programs due to the lack of staff
members trained to work with children with disabilities or a
staff:participant ratio that was too high to provide the necessary
support. As a result, Aiken formed the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which
serves to bridge the gap that exists for young people with developmental
Jackson, a consultant for Project Gonzo, developed the activities
portion of the curriculum. She worked with Mary Anna Bingham, COO of
LifeSpan, a nonprofit agency supporting more than 1,500 children and
adults with disabilities throughout North Carolina, and Polly Haselden,
who is employed at James Madison University as an assistant professor in
“We have trained the staff to facilitate interaction between the campers
by giving them a little space without an adult at their elbow. They are
there to step in and assist the children if needed. We’re hoping this
will grow and we will do training in other sites to open more camps.”
During the weeklong day camps, children, ages 5-8, will participate in
activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, friendship building,
community service, physical fitness and more.
She added, “I’m hoping for what every child wants—to fit in, have fun
and make friends.”
Jackson will be on-site for the camp in Olathe, which begins July 12.