Tulsa Cancels Camp For Kids With Disabilities

Thursday, April 16th 2009, 5:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The collapse of SemGroup has hit many area charities and non-profit groups hard.

Semgroup donated millions of dollars to them. The loss of that big corporate sponsor, combined with other factors, has led to the cancellation of a summer camp for kids with disabilities.

Parents are upset and want the city to rethink its decision.

Susan and Troy Stephens' son, Andrew, has gone to a developmentally disabled activity camp in Tulsa for 10 summers. He loves the friends he's made and the fun he's had.

"We know they are safe," Susan Stephens said. "We know they are loved. We know they are not made fun of. They're protected against bullying. They're protected against other kids that would make fun of them."

But the City of Tulsa canceled the eight-week camp this summer after losing a major sponsor.

"(I was) very shocked, devastated, sick to my stomach," Susan Stephens said.

SemGroup committed $33,000 for the camp in 2007, less than half that last summer, and now with bankruptcy it's dropped to nothing.

"This program we did because we had special funding for it, and that funding went away," said Nancy Atwater, Tulsa Parks and Recreation director.

Without a sponsor to foot most of the bill, the city reallocated the portion it pays for the camp to other programs.

"Our mantra is to include and serve as many children as we can, and we're happy to accommodate those children with disabilities, but to have a camp specifically for them, I would say for those organizations that specialize in that, maybe it's their turn to do those special camps," Atwater said.

Atwater says disabled campers can be included in other city camps. But parents like the Stephenses say that isn't what their children want or need.

The Stephenses believe there has to be another option. They hope a corporate sponsor will step forward to help.

"Forty to 50 children with disabilities will have nothing to do, no other place to go," Susan Stephens said.

If the parents can raise the money to keep the camp running, the city says it would likely have a facility for them.

But, at this point, it would likely be difficult to find trained counselors to work with the campers.