July 12, 2007

Event to honor Camp Little Giant supporters

by Christi Mathis


CARBONDALE, Ill. – For more than half a century, youths and adults with disabilities have enjoyed the Camp Little Giant residential summer camp experience at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Touch of Nature Environmental Center. An appreciation luncheon next week at the center will recognize the donors and supporters who help keep the camp operating.

The event kicks off about 12:20 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17, as guests join campers for a sing-a-long followed by lunch with the campers at 12:30 p.m. and the recognition ceremony about 1 p.m. Touch of Nature is about seven miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.


Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the luncheon. Donors, University staff and campers will be available for interviews at 12:20 p.m. Signs at the camp entrance will provide directions to Freeberg Hall, the event site. For more information, contact David L. Gename, center associate director, at 618/453-1121.


Camp Little Giant is the first university-affiliated residential camping program for people with disabilities in the nation. The camp experience is something very special for 200 or more campers from ages 8-80 each summer. "The support of corporations, businesses, community service organizations and individuals is essential," said David L. Gename, Touch of Nature associate director.

"We literally could not operate this camp without the generosity of our donors," Gename said, adding that donations and in-kind support reached an all-time high in 2007.

Southern Illinois Healthcare is a major Camp Little Giant supporter, contributing significantly again for the fifth year.

"As a leading provider in the region of rehabilitation services through our affiliation with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Southern Illinois Healthcare is not only impressed with the work done at Camp Little Giant but feels it's important to invest in its continued success," said Woody Thorne, corporate director of community benefits and fun development for SIH. "We therefore have provided a degree of financial assistance and help through key vendors and suppliers to assist with medical supplies and equipment that's made it possible for campers to not only enjoy the experience, but get the most out of it they possibly can."

Several area school districts lend a hand through employee electronic payroll deductions including the Williamson County Special Education District, Giant City School District, Franklin-Jefferson Special Education District and the Johnson, Alexander, Massac, Pulaski Special Education District. The Carbondale Elementary School District is in the process of joining and several other school districts throughout the region are considering participating.

Gary Thomas, formerly director of the Williamson County Special Education District and currently secretary/treasurer for the Friends of Touch of Nature, launched the school district payroll deduction concept to benefit Camp Little Giant and he's taken the concept to other districts as well.

" I came upon the idea and it seemed to be a pretty simple thing to have $1, $2, $5 or something like that checked off your payroll every week or two and help a very worthwhile organization," Thomas said. "It's a pretty painless and simple way to support a special cause. We've gotten a very positive response."

"Because we're all about special kids here, that's what we do, it's kind of like a no-brainer for our staff," said Stephanie Dillard, current director of the Williamson County Special Education District about why her staff continues to strongly support Camp Little Giant. "We see the need for social opportunities and opportunities for interaction outside the school environment so I think that's why we have such a high participation in the payroll deduction for Camp Little Giant."

The invited guest list for the recognition luncheon includes representatives from SIH and participating school districts along with the Carbondale Wal-Mart Supercenter, Illinois Centre Mall, Pat Benton and Magic 95.1 Radio, Xi Nu Theta Sorority, Marion Knights of Columbus, Carbondale Knights of Columbus, Pi Kappa Phi's PUSH America Program, The Friends of Touch of Nature, the center's board of directors, University officials and other individual donors.

SIUC operates Touch of Nature and since 1951 Camp Little Giant provides continuous summer residential camping programming. The University prides itself on its skills and expertise providing therapeutic recreation for special populations.