Our Autism Camp Video
By Stratis Papageorgiou
Our first annual Autism Camp was held on May 22-25, 2015 at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta’s Diakonia Retreat Center. We are honored and pleased to share this video by Stratis Papageorgiou of our favorite Autism Camp moments.
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2015 Christ The Good Shepherd Autism Camp
On Memorial Day weekend, the Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos held a unique Family Camp for Special Needs, focusing on children with Autism at the Diakonia Retreat Center, May 22-25, 2015. Nine children and their families came from near and far throughout our Metropolis to the Diakonia Retreat Center in South Carolina for a three day camp adventure. The theme of our camp was “Christ the Good Shepherd”, who loves and cares for each one of His sheep. This camp was made possible through the collaboration of the Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos, Family Life Ministry, and regional specialists in the field of Autism.
Our Metropolis Philoptochos Board recognizes that the Autistic community is growing, and so are the services provided in many cities. Where many of these children are left out is in programming within their own local churches. We held a faith based camp helping Autistic children grow in their relationship with God. From “inclusion” Liturgy to morning Matins and Vespers, special needs children were readers, Altar boys, and active participants. Our Metropolis clergy, Fr. Paul Kaplanis and Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou were diligent in their interactions with families, making sure each message had a visual representation, and their jovial countenance put families immediately at ease.
Metropolis Of Atlanta Camp For Autistic Children
There was a 1:1 ratio of counselors for each special needs child and staff training was facilitated by author and Autism Specialist, Catherine Faherty, prior to the beginning of camp. Catherine also held a parent seminar in the evening as well as a rap session for older siblings. Highlights of our weekend together included bringing a sheep to our Good Shepherd lessons, fishing in the lake at Diakonia Retreat Center, with children catching their first fish and the kitchen staff frying the filets up for supper on Sunday evening. Campers made iconostasia (wooden boxes to hold icons) and by the end of the weekend this box was filled with “tools” to help children “take their Church home”. Inside, campers made an icon of Christ the Good Shepherd and also put together a photo album containing icons, prayers to read at home, scripture verses, and photographs of the weekend. By far the favorite activity for campers was the evening campfire/sing-along led by Recreation Therapist, Jon Blaylock, who is a master of songs and “games without losers” for children on the spectrum.
Despina Koulianos, Youth Ministry Chair
Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos