GOSHEN — As the deaf ministries coordinator at College Mennonite Church, Sheila Yoder has noticed that kids with hearing loss are sometimes isolated from other children, but that’s not the case at a summer camp she started specially for kids who are deaf and hard of hearing.
For the second year, the Summer Activities Program for Deaf Children at College Mennonite Church brought together children with impaired hearing for more than a month of canoeing, games and field trips to local landmarks.
With support from parents and a $3,000 boost from the Elkhart County Community Foundation, the camp drew more than twice as many kids as it did last summer, Yoder said. This year’s camp roster included 19 kids ages 6 to 12 from Elkhart and LaGrange counties.
“We want them to know that they’re OK,” Yoder said. “It sounds simple, but being deaf is not the end of the world, and they are great kids. They have gifts and skills to offer to the world just like anybody else, and we’re not overtly evangelizing here, but we want them to know that God loves them.”
Campers spent the summer making crafts, bowling, swimming and taking field trips to the local fire department, the library and parks. They also had a chance to explore Goshen College’s campus and learn about technologies that help deaf and hard of hearing people in their day-to-day lives.
“The deaf and hard of hearing oftentimes experience difficulty interacting with their hearing peers when school is out for the summer,” camp director Michele Ramer said in an email. “The Summer Activities Program is a place where the children are not limited in their communication skills. SAP would help them enhance their social and communication skills for successes in the future life.”