Wednesday, June 30, 2004

For this volunteer, summer is a time to help out others

'Knowing that I can make their day better or make some difference in their life is ... what I like.'

By Natalie Morales
Enquirer staff writer

Volunteer Rebecca Niner gets a hug from Ashley Taylor, 17, as she works with Courtney Gross, 13, at day camp.
FORT MITCHELL - Most high school students would not choose to spend their summer vacations volunteering at children's day camps, but for Rebecca Niner, it's something she's always wanted to do.

Niner, 15, is volunteering at Redwood Rehabilitation Center's day camps for kids with special needs.

She appreciates that she's been honored as a valuable volunteer for the center, but Niner says she's just happy to help.

"I love working with kids, so I decided to give it a try - and I love it," Niner said.

The center holds day camps in Boone and Kenton counties for Greater Cincinnati school-aged kids with disabilities. Niner, soon to be a Ryle High School sophomore, is volunteering at the Boone County camp.

"It's great to have her as an extra pair of hands," said Susan Bushey, volunteer coordinator.

About 70 children attend the summer day camps, with about 50 at the Kenton County camp and 20 at the Boone County camp.

"Fitness for Life" is the theme of this year's camps, Bushey said. The Boone County camp is focusing on the Olympics by planning races and other activities that represent Olympic-style competitions.

Rebecca, of Union, found out about the volunteer opportunity from her sister, Jessica, who works for the center.

This summer is Rebecca's first time volunteering at the camp.

The Boone County camp ends Saturday, while the Kenton camp runs until Aug. 6. Once the Boone camp ends, Rebecca said she plans to volunteer at the Kenton camp.

All peer mentors must be at least 14 to volunteer at the camp, Bushey said.

Playing games, making crafts and swimming are some of the activities Rebecca does with the 10- to 20-year-olds.

"Knowing that I am keeping them entertained and knowing that I can make their day better or make some difference in their life is just what I like about it," Rebecca said.

While permanent employees spend their time watching all the campers, Rebecca said her volunteer time is special because she gets to know more about individual campers.

"I think they like to have someone there who's a little closer to their own age," she said. "They can connect better, because they see you as more of a playmate than a teacher."

Rebecca usually helps at the camp three times a week. She said she wants to return next summer.

The center offers volunteer opportunities throughout the year, and Rebecca said if she has time among her other activities, she will volunteer during the school year, too.


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