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Published 8/6/2004

An Inspiration to One Another: Owens Counselors and Local Campers Connect at Muscular Dystrophy Camp

Owens student counselors and local campers take time out of their week of fun and excitement for a group picture Thinking back to those days of summer camp can rekindle memories of odd- tasting meatloaf, late-night ghost stories or adventurous dares. But for some Northwest Ohio campers and counselors, summer camp means more than just a week of freedom and fun. It is truly a life-altering experience for youth with neuromuscular diseases, as well as Owens Community College Health Technologies students.

For many years, Owens Physical Therapist Assistant and Occupational Therapy Assistant program students, as well as other students from Health Technologies have taken an active role in a variety of service learning endeavors. Service learning is an educational methodology, which connects community service to specific learning objectives. The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Summer Camp is one of those service-learning opportunities where a quest for knowledge is met by providing service to others in a community setting.

"For the Owens students, this service learning experience with the MDA Summer Camp promotes clinical reasoning skills to transmit the values and beliefs that enable ethical practice," said Janell Lang, Owens Dean of Health Technologies. "It helps them to develop professionalism and competence, and it encourages them to see themselves in a broader role in society."

As part of the service learning, Owens students have touched the lives of area children who have a form of muscular dystrophy, while also preparing themselves for careers as health care professionals. In collaboration with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Owens students serve as fun-loving camp counselors to about 40 campers annually as part of the MDA Summer Camp. This year's weeklong, overnight camp occurred at Camp Miakonda in Sylvania.

According to Lee Grinonneau, Owens Chair of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program, the Muscular Dystrophy Association Summer Camp is a highly rewarding and special experience for both the campers and the Owens counselors. "While Owens students learn how to provide the children with varied skills to function actively and independently, the campers joyously give their gifts of love, friendship and curiosity in return," he stated.

The purpose of the camp is to spotlight the special abilities of each individual through a variety of activities. The schedule of events includes arts and crafts, sports games, swimming, tailgate parties, Elvis impersonators, magicians and motorcycle rides. Owens counselors assist in the activities while providing comprehensive care and support for daily living.

For Owens Physical Therapist Assistant Program student T.J. Mader, the MDA Summer Camp has not only changed his personal perspective on life but also broadened his world. "As a counselor, I am learning how to work with a wide range of abilities on a daily basis," said Mader, a resident of Maumee.

Completing his first year with the MDA Summer Camp, Mader acts as a friend, a role model and a caretaker to the campers. "My camper, Damion, has introduced me to a world in which my problems are very minute," said Mader, a father of two boys. "Although Damion cannot speak, I know that we count on each other. Right, D?" he said.

Owens students serving as counselors receive academic credit toward an associate degree within the Physical Therapist Assistant or Occupational Therapy Assistant programs. An associate degree in these program areas affords graduates the opportunity to take the state licensure exam and become a licensed physical or occupational therapy assistant.

Grinonneau added that the Muscular Dystrophy Association Summer Camp has become so popular among Owens students that both health programs must now use a lottery system in order to select qualified participants. The bond between campers and counselors has become so strong in previous years that several Owens graduates return to assist with summer camp on an annual basis, he said.

"This is truly a special experience where friendships are joined and maintained between the counselors and the campers," said Barb Brady, the Muscular Dystrophy Association Summer Camp Director. "This year's summer camp created a lot of positive memories, as well as new development skills and lasting relationships."

Owens Community College is the fastest-growing higher educational institution in Ohio with 28 consecutive semesters of enrollment increases. On the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, Owens serves more than 44,000 credit and non-credit students making it the number one choice for Northwest Ohio college students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability. Owens Community College offers over 130 program areas in Agriculture, Business, Fine and Performing Arts, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.


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