Helping save sensory camp

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April Sutherland won a statewide award for her efforts to help save The Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Summer Sensory Camp Program for special needs children. "It felt great to represent the team of moms who made this happen."

Raise $27,000 in just a few months.That’s a daunting task for anyone to undertake, but for a group of local moms, it was worth all the efforts.

In 2012, April Sutherland, a nurse in the Camas School District and mother to a special needs child, found out that the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation summer sensory program would be shut down due to a $1.2 million budget reduction.

Her son, who has autism, had attended the camp for several summers, and looked forward to it every year.

Sutherland and several other sensory camp parents launched a four-month fund-raising effort to secure the money needed to keep the Vancouver-based camp operational. They rallied friends, community members, co-workers, students and hosted fund-raisers, including a benefit concert and the sale of special wrist bands.

Due to their efforts, sensory camp was offered for seven weeks last summer, with more than 30 children attending each day.

Three of these moms, Sutherland, Beth Pederson and Sara Brandon, were recently honored for those efforts with a statewide citation of merit, announced at the Washington Recreation and Parks Association annual conference at the Vancouver Hilton last month. The WRPA awards honor public agencies and individuals for outstanding and unique achievements.

“It felt great to represent the team of moms who made this happen,” Sutherland said. “They have all dedicated so much to this.

“They spent their evenings and weekends for months raising money to save this.”

Added Pederson, “Sensory camp holds so many happy memories for our children and without it, their summer would be very isolated. I am thankful for the women that came together to save sensory camp. From everyone at the City, the Parks Foundation, friends, family and strangers, I am humbled how compassionate the people in our community are.”

This year, approximately $7,000 must be raised to continue sensory camp.

To help in the effort, there will be a Save Sensory Camp benefit concert Saturday, from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Red Lion Jantzen Beach, 909 N. Hayden Drive, Portland, featuring Known As Anonymous, a Clark County band.

It will also include a silent auction. Camas Mayor Scott Higgins and Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt have both donated “lunch with the mayor,” to help the efforts.

Other items include a Portland Trail Blazers signed ball, Portland Winter Hawks signed hockey stick, Seattle Mariners tickets, a two-night stay at the coast, a wine wall, and art pieces from local artisans.

“We would love to have more donors for the auction and would also love to have people come to the event,” Sutherland said.

Tickets are $20 in advance, and $25 at the door. The price includes dessert. There will also be a no-host bar.

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