Tag Archives: special needs adults

Teaching Artist, Denise, at RAD Camp

An inspiring story from one of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity’s teaching artists, Denise.

Nestled within the natural setting of Irvine Regional Park, campers spend the week side-by-side with their Buddy engaged in a multiple of activities. The degree of mental and/or physical disability and age varied greatly amongst the adult campers. The Buddies consisted of young adult volunteers: high school and college students.

RAD Camp

The group was divided into ten teams. They rotated into the Art Studio every half hour to paint a Chuck Jones character of their choosing. During lunch and pool time, we offered open studio to those not participating otherwise.

Our program was well received with Chuck’s characters widely recognized with delight. At the beginning of each rotation I was introduced by a camp director. During my introduction I would explain that I was from the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, showing them each character and asking if they knew who Chuck Jones was. There was a handful that recognized him by name.

RAD Camp

During one rotation, a young man named Rusty (shown with Marvin the Martin) stood up and gave us a five minute bio of Chuck, frankly he knew more than I! Another young woman knew all about him as well and was upset that the Grinch was not given as an option to paint. So, I drew him for her and she sang a song for me as we became fast friends. Another young man delighted the crowd with his spot-on voice impersonations of the characters.

RAD Camp

It was an intense and delightfully exhausting day filled with enlightening antidotes and observations. The vast majority of campers were happy, affectionate and eager to participate, such a fun and loving group of people with exceptional camaraderie toward each other and their Buddies.

I found myself in awe of the Buddies. These young adults, ranging from 16-25, are responsible for their camper 24/7 for the entire week. This may include feeding, hygiene and hand-in-hand painting. The enthusiasm and selflessness of these young adults truly restores my faith in humanity.

A few anecdotes: there is “Rhonda”, a wheelchair bound, middle aged woman without speech. She enjoys art so much she spent the entire day in the studio. I observed her drawing a circular pattern of smaller dots. I interpreted her drawing as a rosary so I created a similar pattern but leaving a space after each group of ten smaller dots. I then asked her where the “our Father goes” and she proceeded to put dots in the gaps of the pattern and then drew a line over the entire dotted circle. Her Buddy then spelled out Rhonda’s name in dots and she was able to follow the pattern to spell out her name. It was a huge breakthrough.

Then there was “Mikey”, a man in his 30’s with developmental and severe speech impairment. The moment he walked into the studio, he lunged into an embrace with me, sobbing on my shoulder. The director suspects that I had reminded him of a loved one. I was able to cheer him up by giving him my name tag and getting him started on his project painting hand in hand.

RAD Camp

I observed a huge volume of left handedness, the most I have seen in a group setting in my career. I saw people with mental “disability” display expertise in specific areas: a girl who knew maps: she asked where CJCC was located. When I said next to the 405 near Harbor Blvd, she asked if it was off Susan or Hyland. She then asked where I lived and gave me the best route home and yet she could not name colors.

RAD Camp is an incredible organization and a pleasure to work with.