By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
More than just a summer camp, Camp ClapHans is a place where kids with special needs can play, get to know their peers and challenge themselves through a number of programs. The camp is an outreach program of the J.D. McCarty Center for children with developmental disabilities.
Located in Norman, the camp in situated on the McCarty Center’s 80-acre campus at 2002 E. Robinson Street. It features two cabins and a multi-purpose activities building that are positioned next to an 11-acre lake.
This year’s summer’s games, activities and crafts will be tailored to the 2017 ‘royalty’ theme. Activities for campers include archery, arts and crafts, camp fires, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, talent shows and swimming.
Registration is now under way for the Season 5, which is open to kids ages 8 to 18. Applications are due March 17. The cost to attend camp is $325, and scholarships are available to families who qualify.
Five camp sessions are offered this summer, which run from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon. The 2017 schedule includes the dates June 11 – 14, June 18 – 21, June 25 – 28, July 9 – 12, and July 23 – 26.
“I want camp to be an encouraging, energetic and positive place for children with developmental disabilities to try new things and make new friends and build their confidence,” said Bobbie Hunter, the director of Camp ClapHans.
Hunter was named the director of the camp in October 2016 after previous director, Paxton Stieber, resigned to accept a job in Tulsa.
A Noble resident, Hunter has worked for the McCarty Center since 2012, first as a direct-care specialist and later as a recreational activities specialist.
“Every camper will get to experience the ‘royal treatment,’” Hunter said.
Camp ClapHans also features a 1-to-1 staff to camper ratio. There will be registered dietitians on site to address dietary needs for campers and a physician and nurses available to assist with any medical needs.
The name ClapHans pays tribute to the camp’s namesake, the late Sammy Jack Claphan, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and an Oklahoma native. Sammy played football at the University of Oklahoma and graduated with a degree in special education. He later played in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers. After retiring from the NFL, he returned to Oklahoma and became a special education teacher. He died in 2001.
Camp staff members are typically university students who are working toward a degree in allied health-care fields, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology; special and general education; outdoor recreation; nutrition and other related fields.
Opened in 2013, the camp serves kids from across the state and can accommodate 60 campers each summer.
“Working at the J.D. McCarty Center has been the most amazing experience. I knew when I started working at the center that I was meant to be here,” Hunter added. “It’s amazing to see the excitement on a child’s face when they learn new things and make new friends.”
Hunter says she is also eager to see that same excitement from the kids who attend Camp ClapHans.
“Everyday kids are learning new skills, making new friends and developing self-confidence,” Hunter said.
Hunter says she is thrilled to be leading the camp and believes campers will enjoy the programs offered this summer.
“There is so much to look forward to when I think about camp, but what I am most excited about is getting the opportunity to meet all of the campers.”
Hunter said she believes her duties at the center have helped prepare her to oversee the camp program.
“I hope that through my experience working at the McCarty Center I can make Camp ClapHans an event that campers will always remember.”