Camp Starfish closes with spectacular finale!
Wednesday, August 12th, 2015
After a successful two weeks, the second annual Ambergris Caye Camp Starfish came to a close on Thursday, August 6th with a grand show of color, music and laughter. Catering to island children living with disabilities, the summer program definitely made attendees feel special. But the highlight of their camp experience had to be the final day, when a parade and party was held in honor of each and every shining star! An extra special treat was the attendance of Belize’s Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrrow.
The day kicked off shortly after 10AM with a motorcade parade across San Pedro Town core. Led by a decked out big truck blaring festive music, the parade brought smiles to the faces of participants and spectators alike. A multitude of golf carts filled with family and friends of the campers joined in beeping their horns as they made their way through town. Also in attendance were members of the San Pedro Roman Catholic Church, San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) and Inspiration Center of Belize.
At the end of the parade, participants, family members and invited guest converged at the Lions Den for the official closing and award ceremony. Once everyone was settled, the ceremony commenced with the singing of the Belize National Anthem by Camp Starfish participant, Dyanara Manzano. After a short invocation, Founder of Camp Starfish Dalia Alamilla gave the welcome address. She started off by expressing sincere gratitude over the support the camp. “No child is a mistake, no matter what challenges they face. I am a mother of a special needs child and I am proud and honored to be. Ambergris Caye Camp Starfish was born because of the perseverance of two mothers, myself and Daniela Hancock. We did not only want more for our children, but for all children living with disabilities on the island. We have brought awareness and we are seeing so much support from the community. We want to provide the best experience to each and every camper,” said Alamilla.
Simplis- Barrow then took the stage, delivering an inspiring speech. She applauded the organizers for taking the initiative to start a program for special needs children. “The women are not only changing the lives of their children, but are impacting the lives of all other children in the community. I thank everyone that has been a huge part of Camp Starfish. We are so proud of each and every one of the participants. This camp brings great joy to me. I know that children living with disabilities can face several challenges in life, but with programs like this, we help reduce those challenges. We have to make people understand that we are all different but that isn’t a bad thing. We have to support all of our children equally. The success of these children is thanks to the foundation that the parents set. Explain to them that they are what they are, but nothing should stop them from reaching for their dreams,” said Simplis-Barrow.
Certificates of participation were then presented to each and every camper, who marched proudly up to the podium to receive them from Simplis-Barrow. Certificates of appreciation were also presented to 12 volunteers from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, USA and the 10 student volunteers from the San Pedro High School. A special award was given to Speech-Language Pathology specialist Kimberlee Almon and Physical Therapy specialist Kaity Kobayashi for offering their service to camp participants.
Before the closing remarks were delivered, Mayor Daniel Guerrero shared a short message. He also thanked everyone that made the camp a huge success and pledged to support Camp Starfish for as long as he is in office. “In San Pedro, we know of 70 children living with disabilities, but believe the numbers are actually higher. Unfortunately there is little progress made to address the needs of our special needs children. This is because many of them are hidden and live in silence from the rest of society. I encourage parents of children with disabilities to speak out so that support can be offered. Each of these children has potential and can contribute to society,” ended Guerrero. Director of Special Education at Ambergris Caye Elementary School, Sarah Freudenberg ended off the ceremony with the closing remarks.
Organizers of Camp Starfish would like to extend a big thank you to all sponsors, volunteers, parents and supporters.
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