Scottish Rite philanthropy enables RU COSD Summer RiteCare camps
A program filled with music, dance and laughter capped the 2014 RiteCare© Clinics' summer of helping children develop and enhance their communication and literacy skills.
Almost 150 children, family members, members of the Roanoke-area Scottish Rite fraternity and RU students joined President Penelope W. Kyle in the Hurlburt Student Center on July 11 for a celebration. The celebration culminated with a program that depicted a rescue effort by campers who shed their identities as mild-mannered children and adopted their superhero selves. They rescued James Cole, Scottish Rite Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Virginia, from a dungeon where he had been frozen and imprisoned.
After his liberation, Cole presented President Kyle a check for $33,000 to support RU’s continuing initiatives in partnership with the Virginia Scottish Rite Foundation (VRSF) to enhance literacy and language skills of children in the New River Valley.
“Your philanthropic help is helping so many people in so many ways. You make possible what would be impossible,” said President Kyle. “By working together to open doors for these children, the partnership between RU and the Virginia Scottish Rite Foundation has positively impacted families and children in the New River Valley.”
The celebration marked the 20th year that RU’s Department of Communication Science and Disorders (COSD) and the VSRF have teamed up to help children of limited means overcome a variety of communication disorders. Over those two decades, the VSRF has shared almost $900,000 with the COSD department toward achieving the organizations’ shared goals of improving speaking, hearing, writing and learning.
In the process, the VSRF has helped prepare a generation of speech-language pathologists (SLP). RU students preparing for SLP careers have gained hands-on experience working with children and families who are admitted at no charge to the day camps.
“It has been a perfect day,” said COSD Department Chair Diane Millar. “The kids were excited and the clinicians have done a nice job bringing it all together for the kids to be more successful.”
The 2014 Summer RiteCare© programs included:
- The seventh annual Family Autism Camp, led by Millar and COSD Instructor Pat Rossi, is an intensive family-oriented program that teams children without impairments and children with autism to create an environment for improving communication and social skills. Parents of the participants also attend the camp to learn how to help their children at home with the lessons learned.
- The Language and Literacy Summer Institute, led by Assistant COSD Professor Elizabeth Lanter and assisted by Katie Baughan of the Richmond City Schools, Colleen Gentry of the Montgomery County Public Schools and Gary Pillow of Floyd County Public Schools, provided 25 pre-school and middle-school age children with treatment programs that bolstered their oral and written language skills. The institute had additional support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
- The Speech Sound camp, led by Hillary Billings ‘01, M.S. '03 and the SLP for the Bland County Schools, helped preschool-aged children who have difficulty speaking or being understood due to phonological or articulation disorders.
Five RU second-year graduate students were recipients of Scottish Rite Scholarships to assist with organizing the camps. They were:
- Ali Hutchinson and Erica Wilkening at the Family Autism Camp
- Heather Geddings and Danielle Eikeseth at the Language and Literacy Summer Institute
- Caitlin Cadigan at the Speech Sound Camp
“This was a real-world experience, a crash course, that taught me the value of structure and flexibility as I help to broaden these children’s literacy skills,” said Geddings as she reflected on her first work outside the traditional clinical setting at the Language and Literacy Summer Institute. “I really appreciate the passion for children of the Scottish Rite’s membership and how they have expanded my ability to enrich the lives of the children with whom I have worked.”
While at the carnival on the lawn in front of Waldron Hall, Jennifer Quesenberry talked about her daughter Hazel’s experience.
“It makes me feel so much better to hear her sounding out words and pronouncing better,” she said of the rising third-grader at Indian Valley Elementary School in Floyd. “The camp has given her more confidence and excitement about school and learning.”
Jera Lewis is a sixth-grader at Christiansburg Elementary School who has attended the Family Autism Camp for several years. Her mother, Veronica, was hard-pressed to assess the value of the experience to her family.
“It is hard to put into words how beneficial the camp has been to her and us,” she said. “To see her social skills develop, her interacting with her peers and to describe how excited Jera is to come here each day is hard to put into words for me. The support we have found from other parents and the counselors on a range of issues is also so encouraging.”
Cole, for whom the event was his 12th consecutive, said, “It never gets old. The kids are excited and to see the parents and families’ reactions is always rewarding.”
He said he could use only one word to describe the RU-Scottish Rite partnership: “Great. The results speak to the good things happening here.”
He added that the cape, embroidered with “Super Cole,” with which he was presented by the campers would help him with this travels between his various chapter meetings. President Kyle also donned her cape that was embroidered with “Super Kyle,” saying it would come in handy at her busy slate of meetings.