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Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Volume LXIV, Number 55
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The Giving Camp opens for disabled neighbors
Daily File Photo/
Eight mentally and physically challenged adults from Medford and Somerville participated in the trial run of The Giving Camp this Monday.
Senior Staff Writer
The first trial day of The Giving Camp, a program organized by Tufts students as a camp for local citizens with physical and mental challenges, took place on campus this Monday.
    Monday was only the test day for The Giving Camp, which is planning to run its first full-week project during this year's spring break. Organizers intended Monday to help them to work out any kinks in the program.
    During the test run, eight adult guests from the Walnut Street Center in Somerville were paired with Tufts students who helped them throughout the day.
    The morning began with dancing and aerobics in the Gantcher Center. The guests then participated in arts and crafts projects, painting pumpkins and drawing pictures. After enjoying lunch in Dewick, they were also treated to performances from the Beelzebubs, TURBO, and Spirit of Color. After the performances, the guests sang and danced with University students.
    Plans for The Giving Camp were set in motion when Diane Ricciardelli, a Tufts alumni, decided to design a program for citizens of the Medford and Somerville community with physical and mental challenges. Ricciardelli, now the executive director of The Giving Camp, volunteered at a similar camp for 16 years. This camp had a five-year wait list and had was rather expensive to attend, and Ricciardelli started a new camp that would be free of charge to its guests as an alternative.
    "I knew I wanted it to be on a college campus," Ricciardelli said. "Tufts was [the] natural place because the University Chaplaincy has done similar work."
    After meeting with the provost and the University College of Citizenship and Public Service (UCCPS), Ricciardelli spoke to the Omidyar Scholars. From this group, a student leadership team of four students was formed.
    Organizers hope that The Giving Camp will serve as a model for similar programs at area universities if the expansion of the program to a full week during this year's spring break is successful.
    "People want to go to these camps and people want to volunteer," Ricciardelli said. "We just need to get the facilities."
    The full week program will attempt to attract citizens of all ages from different places in the Medford and Somerville area. Ideally, 40 guests will attend the camp during spring break
    The goal of the camp is to create a place where citizens of the community can have opportunities in a respected and economical way, according to Leslie Wang, one of the student leaders of the project.
    "People don't see these citizens as citizens," Wang said. "The needs of people who attend The Giving Camp aren't always well addressed."
    The other members of the student leadership team besides Wang are juniors Corey Probst and Christina Zahara, and sophomore Zachariah Baker. The team met bi-weekly at first and then more frequently, planning the project as well as training volunteers for the test day.
    "It's a great program for Tufts to be proud of," Wang said. "It can happen annually and across the country."
    The student leadership team was aided by a steering committee made up of mostly administrators and University staff. The steering committee will help students to plan events and ensure that The Giving Camp is a sustainable program.
    In order to expand the Giving Camp to a full-week program, many more volunteers are needed. If 40 guests attend, at least 80 volunteers will be necessary to maintain the desired guest-to-volunteer ratio. Organizers hope to involve more students, especially those in the areas of Child Development and Occupational Therapy.
    The student leaders also want alumni to get involved, especially those who are teachers and nurses. They are also exploring the possibility of establishing internships to make the opportunity more attractive to students who need to work for financial reasons.
    Even though there were small glitches that need to be fixed before the complete expansion of the project, Wang was satisfied with the day.
    The guests enjoyed the activities, particularly the performances by the Beelzebubs, TURBO and SOC. "They really got the energy going and interacted well with the guests," Wang said.
    Those working on the Giving Camp are excited about both the results of Monday's test day and the future of the program. "A lot of our work showed through and that made everyone really proud," Wang said.
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