E-news from The Baby Fold

Camp Take-A-Break Provides Respite Care

kids playing in the lake

As they dangle fishing poles off the dock and into the lake, the kids and camp counselors whisper in hushed tones and try to not scare away the fish. Occasional laughter breaks through. The campers are relaxed as they enjoy time outdoors with their friends. 

This is Camp Take-A-Break.

For nearly 30 years, the Baby Fold’s Adoption Support and Preservation program has offered adopted children the opportunity to attend camp and leave their struggles, worries, and stresses behind for a weekend. The time at camp lets them make friends and learn to trust as they process and heal from past trauma.

The weekend camp also gives adoptive families a respite. They can work on special projects at home or simply spend time together while their adopted child enjoys camp. With every camp counselor trained in trauma-informed care, families can rest easy knowing that their child is in good hands.

kids in a canoe

Camp Take-A-Break takes place 16 times a year at East Bay Camp in Bloomington. Each weekend camp is limited to 15 total campers, and 5 trained counselors enjoy the weekend with them. The children are all receiving therapeutic services in The Baby Fold’s Adoption Support and Preservation program, and they range in age from 4 to 14 years old.

The campers can attend camp multiple times per year, and they look forward to seeing the friends they’ve made at camp. As they make crafts, watch movies, and play gaga ball together, they share a special connection. They can simply enjoy a weekend at camp with friends without the stresses and struggles of daily life.

The overall result of Camp Take-A-Break is somewhat simple—stronger bonds in adoptive families and children gradually healing from past trauma.

Make a Splash for Kids!

water balloon fight

Summer is a busy time for the children and families of The Baby Fold! In addition to Camp Take-A-Break, we also hold Baby Fold Camp. For nearly 45 years, this week-long adventure has offered traditional camp activities to students with special needs who attend Hammitt Elementary School.

Most of our Hammitt School students attend therapeutic summer school sessions to keep them on track for the new school year in August. Baby Fold Camp offers them a great break from those lessons to enjoy camp activities and practice their social and emotional skills with their teachers, classmates, and some United Methodist high school friends who attend Baby Fold Camp. 

Playing ball

Summer doesn’t mean a break for our many other programs, either. Our Healthy Start kids thrive with organized (and fun) educational opportunities over the summer months. This summer they’re enjoying splash pads, swimming pools, arts and crafts, and more.

You can provide summer activities that keep curious minds and hands engaged. You can provide the joy of camp to students at Hammitt Schools. You can even provide hope to an adoptive family through Camp Take-A-Break. Give by June 30 to bring fun and educational summer activities to the children of The Baby Fold.

Thank you for making a splash for kids

Fun in the Sun (Shade)

children and staff on the playground

Our sensory playground at Hammitt Elementary received an amazing update recently with the addition of a sun shade structure! Students with sensory sensitivities can now swing to their hearts’ content without being directly in the bright sunlight.

The shade structure was possible thanks to grant funding from the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation and local donors.

Thanks to our facilities crew for helping install the sun shade!

Learning While Teaching

Hannah and a student

Hannah Sellmyer was just beginning her Master’s program at Illinois State University’s School of Social Work when she decided she wanted some hands-on experience in social services. She wanted to help people and make a difference. Hannah also wanted to learn more about autism. To make all of that happen, she left her job at a local retail pharmacy and joined The Baby Fold team at Hammitt Schools.

Over the last two years, Hannah worked closely with students in autism services at Hammitt Junior-Senior High School. The individualized attention and customized special education offered at Hammitt Schools allows each student to learn and grow in the ways they need. And while she was helping them, the students also helped Hannah.

“I have learned so much during my time here,” she said, “not just about teaching and working with students with autism, but about myself and what drives me, what I’m capable of.”

Hannah and a student

In fact, Hannah credits her time at Hammitt Schools with changing her viewpoint.

“Working at Hammitt has changed my worldview so much,” said Hannah. “It made me think critically about the assumptions I make when working with new people. I never knew I could learn so much from young people, but they have very valuable voices and I make it my mission every day to listen before I speak. You never know who is going to blow your mind with their unique perspective.”

Last month, Hannah had to tearfully say goodbye to her students and teaching team as she began a full-time practicum (similar to an internship) to complete her Master's degree program. She’s looking forward to her graduation next spring but also admits that the change is bittersweet because she’ll miss her students and the bonds she formed with them.

“What I will miss most about working at Hammitt is definitely the kids,” said Hannah. “Working in self-contained special education is not an easy job, and there were definitely days where I left feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. However, seeing the kids’ smiles and hearing their laughter as they played and learned always kept me coming back the next day, ready to do it all over again. They make the job so worth it.”

Celebrating Our Graduates

As the school year came to a close last month, we excitedly celebrated our graduates from Hammitt Schools!

Staff and families in autism services at Hammitt Elementary celebrated students who are moving on to the junior-senior high school level.

staff and graduate
staff and graduate

We celebrated our students graduating from 8th grade, too! They've set and achieved their goals and are ready to take on high school!

Student receiving 8th grade certificate
Student receiving 8th grade certificate

Our Seniors have come so far! They've reached their academic goals, working hard along the way to overcome struggles and build healthy relationships. Congratulations to the eleven high school graduates from Hammitt Junior-Senior High School!

HJSHS graduation ceremony
HJSHS graduation ceremony

Congratulations to all of our graduates! We're SO PROUD of you!

Appreciating Our Parents

two girls painting pottery

It was all smiles at Healthy Start’s parent appreciation party in Anderson Park! The weather was perfect for some fun on the playground. The little ones exercised their creative sides while painting pottery, and the young families enjoyed a meal together. 

Healthy Start is an early intervention program that is creating safe, loving homes for children. Our family support specialists walk alongside new and expectant parents, answering questions and making sure both parents and baby are set up for success. 

face painting

Our Foster Care families enjoyed an evening together, too! They wrapped up Foster Care Month with a parent appreciation picnic complete with a pasta dinner, face painting, bounce houses, and toys. They even had a yummy ice cream sundae bar with all the toppings (you can never have too many toppings). 

Thank you to all of the amazing foster parents who open their hearts and homes to children. We appreciate you so much!

Creative Kicks

Shoes designed by students

This was a FUN art project in one of our classrooms at Hammitt Junior-Senior High School for children who have autism. They designed and created their own "kicks" using canvas shoes, fabric paint, napkins (yes, napkins!) and Mod Podge. The shoes are as unique and amazing as the students who created them.

Once dried, the footwear will be extremely durable and can be cleaned as needed. We hope these shoes take our kids through a summer of adventures!

Festival of Trees 2023: An Insider Look at Auction Item Design

decorating a tiny tree

Interested in learning more about designing holiday décor for The Baby Fold’s Festival of Trees? Want the latest tips and tricks from the dedicated designers on the Festival’s Enchanted Forest Committee (also known as Team Tinsel)? 

Join us for an open house on July 20 and watch some of our amazing volunteers in action! We’ll discuss the ins and outs of wreaths, centerpieces, small Christmas trees, and more. You’ll also get to peek behind the curtain at Team Tinsel’s work space!

The open house takes place from 4 to 8 p.m. on July 20. Please RSVP by July 17 so that we can customize the event content according to attendee interests.

Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  Linkedin  Youtube  Pinterest