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

USC looks to rebound againt UC Riverside

first_imgThe USC women’s soccer team started their 2015 season with a bang; despite walking away from the past weekend with both a win and a loss, they effectively made a bold statement.By defeating preseason-ranked No. 15 Texas Tech on Friday and keeping a close match against defending national champions and top-ranked Florida State on Sunday, the Women of Troy set a precedent for the rest of the season.This Friday, USC will venture off Trojan grounds to take on the UC Riverside Highlanders (1-1) for their third game and second win of the Fall 2015 season.The team hopes to continue its momentum and lead into this game with the buoyancy that rightfully defines it.Senior forward Jamie Fink, a strong voice both on and off the field for USC, agrees that success through such a competitively demanding weekend sparked both confidence and drive that will keep the team on their toes and ready for anything that may come their way this season.“It showed that we’re not going to give up, and we’re going to fight,” Fink said. “All it’s going to take is that extra ‘umph’ and that desire and heart. That is going to help us throughout                             the upcoming season.”A tough battle not only requires a firm punch, but a sense of protection as well. The Women of Troy exemplified that having a strong defensive unit is crucial when going head-to-head with challenging teams.“We’ve been focusing on our defensive tactics; they are setting the tone right now for our offensive,” Fink said.Going off of Fink’s notion of interdependence, head coach Keidane McAlpine agreed that USC’s success stems from the combined camaraderie of every individual representing the Cardinal and Gold.“It begins with our forwards, it begins with the total team defending,” McAlpine said. “It’s just the unity throughout the lines, and in that back line — in the mission, the cause, the detail work — that has paid off so far.”After having to sit out last season due to her in-conference transfer from Oregon State, goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme is now in charge of covering the last line of defense for the Trojans.After a shutout this past weekend against Texas Tech, spectators eagerly look forward to seeing more of her guiding performances throughout both the duration of the season and in-game versus the Highlanders this weekend.“I know they are a tough team and have a high-pressure style of play,” Prudhomme said. “It will be a lot on our defense to make sure we are constantly focused and on our game.”McAlpine shows the utmost certainty that Prudhomme and her backline, as well as Fink and her attacking end, are both ready to march into Highlander territory with a sense of harmony and togetherness to secure a successful performance.”Some of the confidence and correcting some of the mistakes are some of the issues, but also trying to deepen the bench a little bit and add a few more players to the rotation,” McAlpine said. “I think that’s going to be important for our longevity.”Over the weekend, USC defense pulled through with 173 scoreless minutes. As difficult as it may seem to mirror such a noteworthy statistic, the Women of Troy do not by any means consider the task out of reach.“I think the best way to keep that up is to continue to play together,” Prudhomme said.With their trip to Albuquerque behind them, USC will travel to Riverside to continue their evolution as a solitary unit. While there, the Women of Troy, led by McAlpine, hope to progress and keep pushing forward.“My biggest hopes for the weekend are to continue to build on the momentum that we’ve gained playing two great opponents this past weekend,” McAlpine said. “Really just try to continue to grow, that’s the biggest goal out of the weekend.”A team bound by its season motto and comprised of resilient players, USC soccer advances on its journey.“I just want this team to have the utmost success and to conquer our goals, which are ‘one moment, one now,’ and to take it one game at a time,” Fink said.last_img read more

Tony Pulis: West Brom fans have forgiven ‘naughty’ star after Tottenham debacle

first_img Saido Berahino Tony Pulis believes West Brom’s fans have forgiven ‘naughty child’ Saido Berahino for wanting to leave.The boss insisted any rift between the striker and supporters has been healed following his return to the side.Berahino threatened to never play for the club again following two rejected deadline-day bids from Tottenham, while he also had a transfer request blocked in the summer.He scored the winner on his return to the starting line-up for the first time since asking to leave in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Aston Villa.The 22-year-old was rested in Wednesday’s 3-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Norwich but is expected to start at The Hawthorns against Everton on Monday and Pulis insisted he has been welcomed back.“They’ve been very good and very supportive and the great thing for me is the Saido situation,” he said.“I think Saido was concerned there might be a little turning of the tide but they were absolutely wonderful when he came on against Southampton and last Saturday against Villa.“They truly are in love with their football club and they want their football club to do well and Saido is a big part of that now.“They have embraced him and brought him back into the fold – that naughty child!“It’s good because it takes the pressure off him. It’s the biggest thing for the lads to take the pressure off.“The reaction of the supporters and players shows there’s good unity in the group. What we need to do now is for him to concentrate on playing football which is what he’s good at.”Pulis made 10 changes for the defeat at Carrow Road as he rested Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt and Salomon Rondon after admitting they needed a break ahead of Everton’s visit. “Those players have had the opportunity to have an extra day off. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning we’ll really prepare,” he added. 1last_img read more