By Debbie Sherman
Parent and Mudd Nick Foundation Program Coordinator for Children with Special Needs
For the eighth straight summer, the Mudd Nick Foundation sponsored the Great Big Art Mash (GBAM), a camp for children with special needs held at the Bay City Arts Center. The camp provides students a week-long art experience, including visual performing art activities and instruction, group play, nutritious meals and snacks, and loads of fun! The highlight of the week is an activity where students get to construct a wooden boat that they make from scratch with the help of local woodworkers who provide power tools and construction support to the children. Each camper creates her/his boat, and then the group races them down the stream at Bay City Park. GBAM affords a safe, well-supported environment for students with diverse needs to explore, share, learn and create with a focus on fun rather than an end product. Youth are encouraged to let their inner artist shine while working with a variety of art mediums that stimulate the mind and provide specialized learning tools and textures targeted towards the individual needs of each participant. Highly trained staff with credentials and experience working with children with varying needs make the camp a safe place for each participant regardless of their level of ability. The camp culminates with a performance and dinner for campers, their families, and community members. Campers get to show off their art projects and perform short skits or a dance that they learned and practiced throughout the week. It is definitely a highlight of the summer for most of the participants, who are grateful to the Mudd Nick Foundation for such a wonderful opportunity.