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Virginia Beach Parks and Rec creates virtual summer camp program for people with disabilities to keep them connected

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Posted at 2:01 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 18:08:07-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - For people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions, COVID-19 is dramatically impacting their lives.

19-year-old Oliva Wiltshire went from being very active to be forced to spend most of her time at home.

“Home has become her hub,” said Olivia’s mom Sarah Wiltshire, “Normally, she loves going to school every day and taking the bus and doing the after school program.”

Her mother signed her up for the Virginia Beach Therapeutic Recreation Programs and Inclusion Service summer camp.

It is run through the Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Department. The virtual programs help those with special needs and disabilities.

“It's been a Godsend because she is high risk, she has cerebral palsy,” said Wiltshire.

Olivia participated in “Camp from the Couch," two finesses classes and social hour on Friday all from her home.

There are five classes 30 minutes long which include, arts and crafts, science and nature, music and dance, health and nutrition, Tech 101, sports and fitness and leisure education.

Olivia made trail mix, participated in dress up day and her favorite part of camp was arts and crafts.

It's a super fun and creative program. We took a lot of time to plan it out so when we did put it into action, it was going to run like a well-oiled machine,” said Casey King, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and supervisor with the City of Virginia Beach.

They said they took their normal summer program and moved it all online.

We wanted to keep that camp vibe even though with this unique situation. For us as programmers, it challenged us, but it was a great learning experience,” said King. “I still want to connect with my participants and their families, but I need to find a fun way to do that.”

Olivia’s mom said the program was amazing for her daughter.

“It feels like this has been a chance where she was really being social,” said Sarah Wiltshire. She said her daughter loves being social and the program gave her an avenue to do that.

City leaders say the creative efforts from the Therapeutic Rec and Inclusion team were so successful they are launching more programs this fall that is open to everyone not just those with disabilities.

Click here for more information on the program.

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