By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Challenge, conquer, confidence. These are the goals children from the Exceptional Family Member Program at Peterson AFB met as part C3 Therapeutic Skating camp held July 16-20. C3 Therapeutic Skating is a program for children and adults with mental or physical disabilities at Honnen Ice Arena in downtown Colorado Springs, Colo.
Jackie Wickham, EFMP coordinator, said this year 18 children attended the camp, which was paid for by the EFMP program.
The focus of this year’s EFMP camp was physical activity, Wickham said.
Pam Nearhoof, C3 Therapeutic Skating founder, started the program a year ago, and it has been a big success. “Skating is great for balance, agility, breathing and coordination,” she said. “I’ve never had somebody not come back.”
Each child was paired with their own volunteer to help them on the ice. “They get a 20 minute private lesson and then they can stay out on the ice with their helper as long as they want. Skates, (helmets), and ice time are included,” Nearhoof said.
Volunteers range from teenaged competitive figure skaters to adults with skating knowledge.
Some of the younger children were pushed around on buckets, some used walkers, and others skated like they had done it all their lives. The camp also accommodated children with other physical limitations. Wheelchairs were used on the ice, and Kimiko Bullis, an exceptional family member, attended camp with Drifter, her seeing eye dog.
In addition to skating, children, some bound to wheelchairs, got to fly over the ice when they were hooked up to a harness that is used to teach skaters how to jump.
According to Nelson Kent, C3 Therapeutic Skating assistant, the first “C,” challenge, stands for challenging the kids to get on the ice. “For a lot of them, that’s a big step, literally,” he said.
The second “C,” conquer, is to get on the ice and then increase their skating ability. Some started out the week of camp being pushed in a chair or on a bucket. By the end of the week, many were up on their feet, moving on their own.
The third “C,” confidence, is one of the primary goals of the program. “Skating doesn’t have a very big following. These kids can go to school and say ‘I can do this,’ something the other kids maybe don’t do,” Kent said.
Kathleen Bleisch said her two children, Jayden and Kayleigh, were excited every morning to go to camp. Jayden is intoed and has a hard time balancing. “When he first started he just wanted to ride (on the bucket), now he’s actually skating,” Bleisch said.
For more information about EFMP, contact Wickham at 556-6141.