A summer well spent
Looking for a way to contribute to the community this summer, one family decided the best way to give back was to play.
The Tozzi siblings — 19-year-old Francesca, 17-year-old Alessandra and 13-year-old Joseph — finished their stint as day camp facilitators Thursday at the Stevens Center, located at 1576 Kelly Drive.
The sisters and brother learned about the program from their mother and said they wanted to do something positive this summer. They spent the last four weeks encouraging, teaching and having fun with with a variety of students, some with learning or physical disabilities, at three different day camps.
Francesca is studying psychology at Belmont Abbey College and said she hopes to work with children with various disabilities after graduation.
"This was a great introduction to see if this is what I want to do," she said. "This has been a good experience to work with these kids."
She led READY Day Camp, a four-week program for children between 6 and 16, while Alessandra and Joseph coordinated Kids Can Connect and Party, Paint and Playtime, respectively.
"I had the 5- and 6-year-olds, and it can be hard for them to branch out," Alessandra said. "We had to figure out the best ways to jumpstart all of their personalities first thing."
The camp offered children a chance to meet people from a range of backgrounds, Francesca said, and learn about different people.
"[The camps] are not just for kids with disabilities," she said. "Everyone who comes here is treated the same and no differently than another."
Alessandra said her favorite part of the camp was when a little girl offered to push another camper, who was in a wheelchair, around the gymnasium.
"She was talking to him, and someone asked her what was wrong with him, and she said 'nothing,'" Alessandra said. "That was really eye-opening for me."
Joseph monitored the 3- and 4-year-old campers and said they were extremely energetic.
"They are always up on their feet," he said. "We blew bubbles outside and they were full of energy and always ready to go."
The purpose of the camps, according to Stevens Center Executive Director Roger Bailey, is to encourage children to play and make new friends with a variety of different students, regardless of learning or physical disabilities.
"It's exposure to a broader community," Bailey said. "Students with disabilities are often in a separate class and, in this community, there is a separate school. By coming here, children experience everyone and learn we are all just people."
The Tozzi children did a remarkable job teaching the campers and hopefully grew as leaders, he said.
More information about the Stevens Center and the summer camps is available at www.stevenscenter.org.