Camelot TDS Kids Learn to Give Back at Holiday Time


Camelot Bourbonnais Executive Director Beth Shelton works with students on crafts for Gigi’s Playhouse.

Camelot’s therapeutic schools in Illinois are renewing what has become a holiday season tradition for them: taking on a group project.

“We participate in a service project in an effort to give back to the community and support those in need,” said Camelot Education Regional Vice President Theresa Mortl Smith, who spearheads the project each year. “We choose the organization to service as a region based upon the alignment of the organization and the 570 students we serve in our seven therapeutic day schools.”

This year’s beneficiary is Gigi’s Playhouse, a nationwide organization that offers free therapeutic and educational programming to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.

This particular Gigi’s is in Bradley, Illinois near Camelot’s Bourbonnais campus.

“Gigi’s depends on donations, and in areas like ours they struggle to keep the program going,” said Bourbonnais executive director Beth Shelton.  “So we saw this as a perfect match for us.”

The local Gigi’s hosts a holiday party each year and gives a gift to each child that visits—that’s where Camelot comes in. Students at six Illinois campuses will buy and wrap gifts while students at the Bourbonnais campus assemble crafts for the holiday party.

This activity presents a learning opportunity for the Camelot Bourbonnais kids as well. Students will comparison shop for the craft materials, and put them in bags to give to each of the kids at the party.

“In our therapeutic schools, one of the initiatives important to us is community-based learning—and learning how to give back,” Shelton says. “So we have been focused on doing community projects to give our kids the opportunity to volunteer so they can feel that pride in helping someone who may be less fortunate than they are. They are also able to be a role model for other kids.”

beth-and-students-gigisThis is the fourth year of the regional service initiative. Past recipients of Camelot’s generosity include Ronald McDonald House, LGBT/Youth Outlook and The Harbor, a youth homeless shelter.

“We believe in supporting children and families in the communities in which we have our schools,” Mortl Smith said. “Each of our seven campuses, other key members from the region and our central office are involved with the service projects each year. Campuses involve their students and staff in activities such as menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, packaging and delivery. The more the better!  Many students in our Adult Prep Program and pre-vocational programs can participate as part of their program goals.  We use the spirit of the holiday season to fuel this important initiative.  It has become a cherished tradition amongst Camelot’s therapeutic day schools.”

Gigi’s party is December 17 but the relationship won’t end with the holiday activity. Beth Shelton has developed an ongoing relationship with Gigi’s and plans for her campus to continue to support the organization’s worthy mission.



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