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Look back

Camper Anne Loyster, 7, covers her ears as a fire engine raises its ladder and sounds its siren at Casey Park. Also looking on are counselors Linda McAllaster and Jasmin Elliott and camper Christopher Hacker.

Aug. 12, 1994

Matt Vrooman thrusts out his hand for a shake when he meets someone for the first time. The 12-year-old boy smiles and laughs when he talks to you and, if you're not looking, he might even plop a kiss on your cheek.

But two weeks ago, when Vrooman first came to this summer camp for children with disabilities, he was a different boy, said Mary Ellen Perry, who oversees Freedom Camp.

"You'd say boo to Matt and he'd go run in the corner," said Perry, who is the executive director of Freedom Recreational Services, which runs the camp at Casey Park and a therapeutic horseback riding program.

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It's the encouragement from the staff and social interaction that has helped "campers" like Vrooman come out of their shell with smiles on their faces.

Throw in a variety of challenging activities to a special daily program and you've got the ingredients for what has turned the 14-year-old Freedom Camp into a success.

"It gives them (the children) an opportunity to have a normal day camp experience that they might not have otherwise," said Perry.

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— Compiled by David Wilcox

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