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Oxford Down syndrome camp to let kids be kids

A new summer camp that provides fun and education for families and children with Down syndrome will be held this weekend in Oxford for the first time, and there’s still time to participate if you hurry.

The camp will be held Friday and Saturday at Camp Hopewell at 24 County Road 231 in Oxford.

Booneville native Scott Thompson, 42, came to Oxford in 1994 and never left. Today, he works at the University of Mississippi as the Alumni Association’s assistant director.

He also helps lead 21 United of Mississippi, a nonprofit organization that offers support for individuals with Down syndrome. The organization is called 21 United because Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.

Buddy Walk

The organization was created by three Oxford families, and for the last two years, it has hosted Buddy Walk events to raise money for the organization and awareness about Down syndrome.

“We’ve done the Buddy Walks two years in a row,” Thompson said, “but this is the first time we’ve ever done a camp for Down syndrome families.”

After assembling a board of directors for 21 United of Mississippi, Thompson said members decided how they wanted to spend money raised from Buddy Walks.

“This camp allows us to accomplish a couple of our mission points, which is education for family members and networking and play dates for individuals with Down syndrome,” Thompson said. “It’s something we all felt really strongly about. We are able to do a few things here and there with the money we raised, but this is kind of our dream.”

He said there are no age restrictions for campers with Down syndrome.

“My son is 3, and I think he might be the youngest,” Thompson said, “but we have a girl who will be there who is 16 or 17.”

Thompson said the camp is for families and individuals. It will feature arts and crafts, canoeing, swimming, archery, a dance party and a hayride.

Parents will have an opportunity to gather in a meeting hall for educational and support sessions. Round table discussions will be held to discuss common obstacles parents face and common milestones they celebrate.

“More than anything, it’s going to allow all of our kids to be kids,” Thompson said. “The individuals with Down syndrome don’t have to worry with anything like therapies or extra time studying to keep up with the class. It’s really just a time to relax and be with their siblings and other families.”

Thompson said the camp welcomes anyone. Two families will be attending from Alabama. All participants receive a partial sponsorship. No one pays full price. They will offer some scholarships on a case by case basis.

The camp will accommodate up to 10 families.

“We do still have a few spots open for three or four more families,” Thompson said.

Anyone who isn’t receiving the full scholarship pays $20 per person for children birth to 3, $50 per person for children 4 and older, and $30 per parent. This includes meals and overnight lodging.

The organization also holds holiday parties and luncheons with speakers. Donations are welcomed.

“Even though it sprang from a group of families in Oxford, we reach out farther than the borders of Lafayette County,” Thompson said.

Participants have also come from Lee County, Union County and Clarksdale.

“This is not just an Oxford organization for Oxford people,” Thompson said. “It’s a north Mississippi organization for anyone who fits our common denominator, which is the love of people with Down syndrome.”

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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