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New technology, renovations await kids when camp opens Monday

On Monday the buses will pull up at Cradle Beach, the camp counselors will ring the bells and excitedly welcome the kids before starting an orientation and taking them to their cabins.

And while this scene may be consistent with years past, some new building renovations and technologies will greet the young campers as they arrive in Angola for the first summer camp session, which lasts from Monday to July 3 and is for kids ages 8 to 11.

"For many of the 8-year-olds, it will be their first time at Cradle Beach," said Tim Boling, Cradle Beach chief executive officer.

The summer camp program at Cradle Beach serves about 800 kids with special needs or those who come from a disadvantaged background. There are five sessions this summer, each lasting seven to 10 days and serving different age groups. The focus is on educating and training through activities such as arts and crafts, photography, various sports and the culinary arts, among many others.

This week 160 campers will be surrounded by 100 counselors, who have been at the camp since June 16 getting ready for their summer. They go through training, where they learn how to deal with the different disabilities some of the kids have and review safety standards, Boling said.

"They've been living here, and it's been a real bonding time and that's done intentionally to have them get close the week before the kids come," he said.

Since last year, new bathrooms and electricity were installed in 15 cabins at Cradle Beach, funded by the Children's Guild Foundation, the James H. Cummings Foundation and SEFCU. The William F. Kimberly Arts and Crafts Center and the Kick-a-Poo cabin, renamed SEFCU, were both renovated.

Boling said the buildings were winterized to allow for year-round programming. The nature hut also was renovated, and 65 new windows were installed.

But the campers are more likely to notice the new technology.

With support from the Kelly for Kids Foundation, Cradle Beach purchased four iPads, which will be used with children with autism to provide activities and assist in communication. Cradle Beach serves about 80 autistic children every year, Boling said.

A video projector system was installed in the main building that connects to a Blu-ray player or laptop for camp presentations. The building now has Wi-Fi, as well.

But while the facilities and technology may change from year to year, the interaction between the special needs and disadvantaged campers remains the same.

"When they go here, they sit right next to each other at the lunch table and may become best friends," Boling said. "The first couple days, both populations aren't sure how to work with each other. By the time they leave, they're hanging out in the pool. They're pushing them in their wheelchairs."

Donations can be mailed to Cradle Beach Camp, 8038 Old Lakeshore Road, Angola, 14006-9635, or made online by visiting www.cradlebeach.org.

email: jharris@buffnews.com