Helping special-needs children to laugh and play

first_imgHelping special-needs children to laugh and play Helping special-needs children to laugh and play Associate Editor L eaving wheelchairs behind, kids climb high on horseback, thrilled to ride powerful and tall.Blind children dip brushes into pots of colorful paints, cheerfully creating vibrant art for others to see.A Downs Syndrome child grins broadly at the beauty of the Manatee River, snuggled in the bottom of a canoe, while two counselors do the paddling.When an autistic child stands up in the middle of dinner and hollers, “Go Marlins! Go Marlins!” everyone else joins in and chants, “Go Marlins!” too.Welcome to Dream Oaks S.W.A.M.P. Camp, where “special wishes and magical play” are delivered in a beautiful, natural setting to terminally ill, mentally and physically challenged children, as well as at-risk kids.Watching special-needs children laugh and play at a summer camp that builds confidence and lets them feel normal for a week is a dream come true for 57-year-old Eddie Mulock, a Bradenton lawyer who once served on The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors.After years of dreaming and scheming about creating the special children’s camp an idea sparked during Mulock’s hospitalization for heart transplant surgery the first group of kids finally arrived in June and continued to pour in through the end of July.“Overwhelming!” Mulock said of the first time he met the long-awaited campers. “Since I got out of the hospital in 1995, I had visualized in my mind what the kids would be like and how I’d spend time with them. All of a sudden, on a Monday morning, we had a slew of kids at camp. It was a very teary experience.” Mulock still practices law, but this summer he’s been a happy camper in the thick of things, loving it when the children call him “Mr. Eddie” and make him the target of water balloons and squirt guns.“We had children arrive on Monday, a little sick and angry, and some wouldn’t smile. One mother said, `My son never smiles.’ But by the end of the week, he was laughing. His mother came to a talent show, and she was in tears and he was laughing,” Mulock said.Another mother, Pam Lozano, expressed her gratefulness in a letter, thanking Mulock and the camp staff for giving her daughter, Gabrielle, the time of her life.Born with a brain tumor in her optic nerve, Gabrielle endured a year and a half of chemotherapy, three operations, 35 radiation treatments, and “probably at least 2,000 needles.”One night a priest was called when she stopped breathing and her heart stopped, but she miraculously pulled through and has not needed treatment for seven years.“For my child to go through all she did, which is something no child should ever have to go through, and have her ask me for the last three years to go to camp, I would always have to tell her `no.’ They were either too far away or just not suited for a child like her,” Lozano wrote.“After she came home from the first day of camp on June 25, I said, `Well Camper Lozano, how was camp?’ She responded with such a grin on her face and said, `Oh, Mommy! It was great! I had so much fun, I wish I could go forever!’“That one phrase should make each and every one of you feel like the most important person in the world.”Pretty heady stuff for Mulock, who gets his reward whenever he hangs out with the kids at the camp.“One little boy, all he says is `You! You! You!’ and runs over and hugs me. Another little boy speaks Russian and English and plays chess, but he’s autistic and has trouble controlling his behavior.“He didn’t want to go home and wanted to be a counselor, so I gave him a shirt that says he’s a member of the staff and invited him to come back and help at lunch time. He thinks he’s a counselor,” Mulock said with a chuckle.“I love to pat the kids on the back, hug them, and let them know they’re important because they are.”Mulock came up with the idea for the camp, while stretched out in a hospital bed preparing to receive a heart transplant. His heart muscle had been ravaged by a virus that doctors speculated he contracted from drinking tainted water while backpacking in the Idaho mountains with his sons.A major heart attack in 1993 sent him to Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville, where he was connected to a heart and lung machine while awaiting a new heart.Within those stark and sterile walls, Mulock had met a lot of very sick children stuck in hospitals too, and he wondered what they had to look forward to.He’d found out about special-needs camps, but learned there were none on Florida’s West Coast, and vowed to do something about it if he survived.“I was given one day to live. I was on the critical list for a long time. Any time you face a life-or-death situation, you learn perspective. I say to people every day: `So what?’ I think you learn that working night and day to make a dollar is not as important as being with kids and giving. Getting fills your pockets. Giving fills your heart,” Mulock said.On more than 200 acres of a little used Boy Scouts of America property, Camp Flying Eagle in East Manatee County has been transformed into Dream Oaks S.W.A.M.P., an inclusive, barrier-free campground for children ages 7 to 18. Grouped by age and disability, the children enjoy day camping activities, get a break from their parents (and vice versa) and feel independent many for the first time.A pair of all-terrain wheelchairs roll along nature trails. The Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy provides a slanted wooden ramp to bring disabled children to saddle level where they happily trot away on gentle horses.Mulock’s oldest son, Brett, who teaches emotionally handicapped children, is program director.Camp director Jodi Franke spent six busy months planning meals and coordinating activities that include everything from humor therapy to music therapy to swimming to meeting special visitors such as a world champion cyclist who is paralyzed from the waist down and pedals with his hands.When the children check in at the camp, a full-time nurse takes all the medications from the parents and carefully doles out the meds during the day. The nurse checks blood pressure and monitors vitals at the new health lodge built by Manatee Memorial Hospital. Doctors are on call.After the first month of camp, Eddie Mulock was proud to report: “One bug bite. One skinned knee. A little boy with an upset stomach. Bottom line, we were free of serious problems.”On the last week in July, Mulock was busy welcoming his new group of campers, at-risk kids bused in by the Boys and Girls Club.“They might be having trouble at school or at home. They need an opportunity, too. I saw a need,” Mulock said. “Most of the children are minority children who haven’t had the same opportunities. They might not have parents, they might be in foster homes.”What Mulock teaches the kids: “Hope is so important. I am one person who knew that to have hope for the future is so important for your health. If they look to next summer, they’ll live that long and beyond.”What the kids teach him: “Sicknesses are only a certain aspect of life. They don’t have to limit your enjoyment of life.”Mulock, who aptly named his 18-acre homestead the “Second Chance Ranch” is still dreaming big.Through his not-for-profit Foundations of Dreams, Inc., the camp was opened with $250,000 from companies and private donations.This month, construction is beginning on 10 cabins, so that next year the camping experience will be an overnight adventure. They’re $300,000 short of their cabin-construction goal, Mulock said.He invites donors to name a cabin after their law firm or organization. So far, he said, Holland & Knight lawyers have been very involved helping raise money for the camp.He envisions an ecology building and aviary, where children will bend over microscopes studying plants and animals.“What I really want to do is go to an adult handicapped camp in the fall, after we get the cabins built,” Mulock said.It’s all part of an ambitious plan for the changed man who once vowed, if he were given a second chance at living: “I’d give more and live more. Now, I don’t pass up hugs. I don’t pass up conversation. I laugh more. I hope more. And I dream more dreams.”For more information contact the Foundation for Dreams, Inc., 519 13th Street West, Bradenton 34205, telephone: (941) 748-2104, or visit www.foundationfor August 15, 2001 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular Newslast_img

UK’s Boris Johnson hospitalized over virus symptoms

first_imgLONDON – British Prime Minister BorisJohnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests, his office said, becausehe is still suffering symptoms, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office says he is being admitted for tests because he still has symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus. AP Johnson’s office said the admission toan undisclosed London hospital came on the advice of his doctor and was not anemergency. The prime minister’s Downing St. office said it was a “precautionarystep” and Johnson remains in charge of the government. Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in hisDowning St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — thefirst known head of government to fall ill with the virus. Johnson has continued to preside atdaily meetings on Britain’s response to the outbreak and has released severalvideo messages during his 10 days in isolation. (AP)last_img read more

States should control education standards

first_imgA new California law requiring students to be up-to-date on vaccinations before enrolling in public schools was put into place July 1, and this school year is the first to witness its implementation. This need for children who attend public school to be vaccinated is an example of the state interceding in local authority for the sake of the greater good of the public. In the delegation of authority within a state with regard to education, local school districts continuously adapt to reflect current issues within the district, while the state acts as a constitutional authority on education through the creation of laws and regulations.  Legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act, and more recently, Common Core, has given the federal government increasing power over education. Thus, what is the relationship between the state and federal government in the authority over educational issues?In the 1973 Supreme Court case San Antonio Independent School District v Rodriguez, the Court held that there was no fundamental right to education in the Constitution; thus, as demonstrated in cases like Brown v Board of Education and others, states cannot have discriminatory schooling practices, but plaintiffs are limited in their ability to appeal to the federal government for how those systems of education within the states are arranged otherwise. The constitutionally delegated authority for states to have power over education resides in each state’s constitution. California, for example, explicitly states that  a common system of school must exist, and has specific constitutional requirements pertaining to the funding of schools, religious instruction and establishment of higher education. Given that the constitutional authority over education resides in each individual state, and the negative consequences over accountability measures utilized by the federal government in order for schools to receive federal funding, education is best left to be handled and decided on by the states. Federal policies often link accountability measures to funding sources to ensure that schools are held responsible and that the funding they are given is used for a particular goal. For example, No Child Left Behind, a piece of federal legislation enacted into law in 2002, links standardized test performance to sanctions for public schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress by each subgroup of students based on special needs, minority status, English language proficiency and socioeconomic status. NCLB helped spurn the movement in education toward high stakes accountability testing as a means to make sure schools, and furthermore states, were teaching students what they needed to learn. The belief was that if the federal government tested students and held educators accountable for improving test scores, students’ scores would increase. However, students have barely shown any increase in scores when comparing test scores pre and post NCLB implementation. Yet, both the Bush and Obama administrations have offered federal grants through Race to the Top, Flexibility Waivers under NCLB, School Improvement Grants and various other programs to push states, districts and schools to line up behind policies that use these same test scores in high-stakes evaluations of teachers and principals. These tests are larger indicators of educational opportunity gaps that exist between races and social classes, which can only effectively be remediated at the state level as well. These accountability measures have been unable to effectively demonstrate how they have successfully raised student academic achievement, which was the goal of their implementation in the first place. Proponents of federal control education point out examples from international countries that have exemplary systems of education thanks to federal control. Countries like Finland, which is consistently ranked as the top nation in the world for education, do boast a heavy federal government presence in schools. However, it is important to note that the success of these other countries are much more heavily related to their distribution of funding, wealth equity, social programs and teacher education programs than the role of the state or federal government in education.Ultimately, states have the right to set their own learning goals and standards for what they want their students to learn in schools. Furthermore, when the state and local school districts have more authority over education, constituents are better able to vote elected officials out of office if they feel like the official is not appropriately solving educational issues within the state or district. By maintaining local control over education, communities have more of a chance to have a larger impact on schooling, and address their individual students’ unique needs better than the federal government would be able to.Julia Lawler is a senior majoring  in history and social science education. Her column, “Get Schooled,” runs Fridays.last_img read more