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Touched By An Angel Ministries

Every summer, flocks of children head to summer camp to ride horses, fish, play, and enjoy the camaraderie of other campers; but for many children with both mental and physical handicaps, these opportunities are out of reach. Brian Aldridge, a State Representative from North Mississippi, was not satisfied that his younger sister Amanda Claire, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, would miss these experiences because she was viewed as “different”. In 1996, with his five-year-old sister as his inspiration, he started Touched By An Angel Ministries, a Christian mission camp for disabled children and adults based in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Because of this camp, Amanda Claire, now 18, never had to miss out on the wonderful joys of being a kid at camp. Those who attend TBAAM come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, but their differences are what unite them. The disabilities of participants fill the spectrum from Autism and ADHD to Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, and Down Syndrome. Campers at TBAAM are given the opportunity to experience many of the same activities that any other child would at a regular camp setting, including getting to interact with and ride horses, go fishing, make arts and crafts, go on hay rides, and make new friends from around the Southeast. To date, participants have come from eight different states including Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas to join in on the fun and make new friends.

TBAAM has two types of camps available throughout the year. The first type is a weekend camp held two weekends out of every month that begins on Friday afternoon and ends Sunday morning. The second type of camp is the week-long summer camp held in June and July; week-long camps begin on Monday and end on Saturday. The camp averages approximately seven to eight campers for each weekend camp and as many as 15 for each week-long summer camp. Each participant is paired up with a volunteer counselor, often from church mission groups, who works with them as they participate in the different activities. TBAAM also has medical staff on hand prepared to handle any medical emergency that may arise.

Staff members want parents to feel at ease that the child is in a safe and nurturing place, and they allow parents to stay and observe while the child adjusts to the camp setting. Parents are always welcome to call and get updates on their camper as well.

Parents are growing more and more tense about the financial burden of caring for a disabled child and making sure they experience all the opportunities available to them. Because many children with disabilities are already robbed of their childhood due to constant medical treatments, hospitalization, and even sometimes over-protective parents, TBAAM does not turn children away due to an inability to pay. For participants needing help with admission costs, TBAAM works with corporate sponsors to make sure these children have a chance to attend camp when funding becomes available. More than 97 percent of all contributions to TBAAM go to services for campers.

TBAAM is always looking for counselors and volunteers as well as donations. Beyond simply monetary donations, TBAAM also accepts much needed paper products such as paper plates, paper towels, and toilet paper as well as surgical rubber gloves; these supplies are essential to the care of the campers.

For more information on Touched By An Angel Ministries or how you can help, please contact David Hatfield, Director of Missions/Assistant Camp Director, at 662-231-4187 or by email at HAT12Z@yahoo.com. More information can also be found at www.tbaam.org

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