Funding gap may mean no summer camp for deaf students with special needs

All Keira Ratzlaff wants to do this summer is go to a unique camp with other deaf youngsters.

But if the Family Network for Deaf Children doesn’t find another $30,000, special needs children such as Ratzlaff may not get a chance to spend time with other deaf youths on Hornby Island.

Heather Ratzlaff, Keira’s mother, said Keira isn’t eligible for other summer camps because her special needs, which include cerebral palsy and ADHD, require one-on-one care.

The Deaf Youth Today program offers one-of-a-kind camps on Hornby Island and in Burnaby in July and August. At the camps, eight-year-old Keira gets the chance to see fellow students from the B.C. School for the Deaf as role models while they work as counsellors in training. The camps create a deaf environment where everyone communicates using American Sign Language.

“The challenge for us is that this is where Keira wants to go,” said Heather.

“This is her people and friends and community. This is the only deaf camp.”

Cecelia Klassen, executive director of Family Network for Deaf Children, said the usual sources of funding for the organization’s summer camps have dried up.

“For whatever reason, people are just not giving money,” Klassen said. “I don’t know what it is.”

Every year, about 168 children and youths aged five to 18 attend the summer camps. The budget of $221,000 includes $65,000 raised through grants and donations. Other contracted funding is from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. This year, fundraising has fallen short by $30,000.

The costs are higher at DYT because of the special requirements of summer programs for deaf children, Klassen said.

Up to 40 per cent of applicants to the program have special needs such as autism and blindness or may have behaviour problems. Since FNDC doesn’t turn any applicant away, …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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