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Where miracles happen every day

Special needs West Linn kids make big strides at Marylhurst camp

TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Nurse Karen Pyeatt of West Linn offers a warm hand to a camper at the Marylhurst Creative Arts Day Camp. It is called a camp where everyone wins.Maybe Lillieth Grand didn’t invent enthusiasm but she perfected it.

Grand creates a force field of energy around her Marylhurst Creative Arts Day Camp, being held this week, for special needs children.

Minor emergencies happen often at the camp, but they never cause Grand’s beaming smile to dim because the miracles outnumber the emergencies.

“Oh my gosh, things are going brilliantly!” Grand said. “We’re already seeing little miracles. Two little girls became best friends on the first day of camp. When we asked everyone to draw pictures of something that makes them happy, they drew pictures of each other. One little girl wouldn’t do anything on the first day of camp. Today she is doing everything.

“Our campers are getting so much out of this experience. This is a very special camp. There are so many moments that are really special.”

All of the games, activities and fun are aimed at children who need an extra boost up in life. The kids at Creative Arts Camp must deal with such challenges as severe neurological impairment or chromosomal disorder, autism or severe anxiety.

Grand is well-suited to lead this camp because of her academic achievements, experience and talents. But perhaps her most important contribution is being ready to give a hug at any time. She is extraordinarily good at this, giving big, tight, warm bear hugs.

TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Counselor Julia Anderson, a music therapy major at Marylhurst University, guides a girl on Xlylohphone Blues during a jam session at Creative Arts Camp.

Grand gets outstanding assistance from her camp counselors, who are all music therapy students at Marylhurst University. In one room counselor Julia Anderson is helping a child play “The Xylophone Blues,” in another the gang is painting and drawing, and outside counselors and kids are having a wonderful time kicking around giant, colorful beach balls.

Keeping an eye on everything is camp nurse Karen Pyeatt, a West Linn resident who has 32 years of nursing experience, much of it treating school children. But nothing she has done has been quite like Creative Arts Camp.

“Being nurse is here is sort of like giving birth,” Pyeatt said. “At the time it happens you say, ‘Why did I do this?’ But when you leave you are so happy. It is overwhelming to see what the kids accomplish here and they have such a great time.”

Pyeatt is part of a big West Linn imprint on the camp. Of the 24 campers, one fourth of them are from West Linn. When the first week of camp ended, the children had shown much improvement in self-regulation, social skills, impulse control and engagement with others.

“The overarching thing is that this camp be a good memory for the kids,” Grand said. “It should be fun.”

From all the laughter going on at the camp it’s obvious that goal has been accomplished.

Still, Grand seems to be ahead of everyone else in the fun department. This is the second year of her bringing back the Creative Arts Camp to Marylhurst, after a four-year hiatus, and she is so glad she did.

“This a camp where everyone wins,” Grand said. “The word ‘glad’ doesn’t even begin to describe the way I feel about it.”

For more about Marylhurst Creative Arts Day Camp go to events.marylhurst.edu/summer-camps/creative-arts-day-camp/.

TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Counselor Katie Husvar and a camper exchange huge smiles in art class at the Creative Arts Day Camp held at Marylhurst University. The main goal of the camp is joy.