New Not-for-Profit, Virtual Summer Camp Purpose-Built for Special Needs Kids Starts Later This Month

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BuddEConnect Summer Camp offers kids with special needs an opportunity to enjoy some summer fun!

BuddeConnect

What these kids have built would make any entrepreneur or not-for-profit professional simultaneously proud, envious and humble. They are living Booker T. Washington’s sage advice: ‘If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.

Camp BuddEConnect (BuddEConnect.org), a high-engagement virtual summer camp for special needs children preschool age and up, is launching this month to fill a void left by COVID-19. The pandemic has shut down or constrained many of the in-person programs upon which communities depend. Camp BuddEConnect offers kids with special needs the opportunity for social interaction, physical activity, personal connection and fun directly from their homes.

Camp BuddEConnect offers:

  • 5 one-week sessions; campers can apply for participation in any number of weeks
  • June 29th - July 31st
  • 5 days/week (Monday-Friday)
  • 2 to 3 hours/day starting at 2 pm EDT
  • About 40 campers/week, pre-school and older
  • Counselor/Staff to Camper ratio is approximately 3:4
  • Campers from around the world are encouraged to apply*

Camp BuddEConnect activities span a wide range of interests each day including arts and crafts, science experiments, physical activities, music, story time and entertainment “assemblies” complete with allergy-friendly camp snacks. To maximize each camper’s experience, a special Camp BuddEConnect Support Package, which includes allergy-friendly snacks, art supplies and other surprises, is provided each week a camper participates in the program. These Support Packages can be picked up locally in northern NJ or shipped free-of-charge to non-local participants.

Camp BuddEConnect costs $25 per camper, per week. Full scholarships for up to 5 weeks are available to campers upon request. Inability to pay will not be an impediment to participation. Camp applications are available here.

Founding Donors are encouraged to help support BuddEConnect, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations can be made via PayPal by clicking here.

BuddEConnect was formed by the student leaders of the West Morris Soccer Club TOPSoccer Program using Zoom to recreate the sense of community and engagement that was lost when in the one to one in person TOPSoccer sessions were shut down due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home and social distancing mandates. The weekly TOPSoccer sessions became TOPZoom sessions starting on April 11, 2020, and enabled the student volunteers to continue to connect with the large group of special needs children that were now missing the activities and interactions that were central to happy, fun interactions in everyday life.

With the end of the school year approaching and uncertainty about camps and other in-person activities reopening, student leaders recognized that the summer might not look that sunny for the TOPSoccer/TOPZoom athletes, other special needs children outside of our geographic reach. They were emboldened to use the experience gained from TOPZoom to extend the program into a full-blown special needs summer camp over Zoom, with fun, connection and joy as the main purposes. A team of student leaders, camp directors, and pro-bono adult advisors collaborated to create Camp BuddEConnect.

Doon Wintz, Camp BuddEConnect’s founding advisor and owner of three natural food companies based in New Jersey, was more than impressed by the quality of the students’ work and level of commitment, noting, “What these kids have built would make any entrepreneur or not-for-profit professional simultaneously proud, envious and humble. They are living Booker T. Washington’s sage advice: ‘If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.’”

“COVID-19 has resulted in schools and sport teams shutting down around the world. I would like to congratulate West Morris SC TOPSoccer / Camp BuddEConnect for extending the ability of our athletes to learn and stay engaged in their sporting activities during the summer months,” said Tom Condone, US Youth Soccer Director of Grassroots & Player Development.

About BuddEConnect
BuddEConnect is a project of West Morris Soccer Club, a 501(c)(3) community organization out of Mendham/Chester, NJ. BuddEConnect is dedicated to providing an inclusive, engaging and positive environment for children with special needs. This concept originates from TOPZoom, a virtual alternative to special needs activity-based programs. TOPZoom was established to replicate the social interaction, physical activity, and personal connection provided by TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), which was interrupted by COVID-19 social distancing mandates. The creation of TOPZoom has exceeded expectations and proved that necessity is the mother of invention. BuddEConnect believes and has shown that fun and community need not be limited by circumstance or geography and that building a new, broader and lasting community of special needs children is achievable.

The high school and college student leaders working on Camp BuddEConnect and TOPZoom are supported by pro-bono adult advisers with expertise in a wide range of disciplines and are creating a lasting legacy of service and excellence.

Beyond TOPZoom and Camp BuddEConnect, BuddEConnect and West Morris Soccer Club are committed to helping other organizations adopt and implement the types of programs and techniques utilizing the training resources they have developed. US Youth Soccer intends to make these tools available to TOPSoccer programs throughout the nation later this year.

  • Camp BuddEConnect Support Packages can only be shipped to participants in the Continental United States. Participants outside the Continental United States will be required to provide their own camp supplies. The supplies list will be published well in advance of the camp week.

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Thor Harris
Percepture
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