Contributed by Holly Aloi
For PV senior Lauren Martinez, Camp Raspberry is more than just an interest. It’s personal for her.
Camp Raspberry is a club run by the Pascack Valley School District in which the “rasp” part of raspberry stands for a recreation and socialization program. The club’s mission is to destigmatize special needs labels on children.
Through this club, members work and plan events every month for children with special needs. Its objective is to provide opportunities for recreation and socialization to special needs students, as well as provide all campers with learning experiences.
“This club has made me realize that there are so many different kids around us that are living different lives than we are, and it’s a nice place for them to feel like this is a judgment free environment,” Martinez said.
Martinez believes that when people are at events, they are automatically happy, and that happiness lingers after the meeting or event is over. She feels overjoyed by the feeling of making an impact on a child’s life as well as on the community.
Martinez’s cousin is a camper in the club.
“I love feeling like I had an impact on someone’s life,” Martinez said. “It is a nice place to hang out with my cousin, Eva, as well as other kids.”
Holly Aloi is one of the presidents of Camp Raspberry along with Grace Falanga from Pascack Hills. Aloi feels that the club has a significant impact on the student volunteers as well as the campers.
“We want to get the kids moving and socializing with each other, as well as just living and playing like all children should even if they do have disabilities that may be debilitating to some extent in their everyday life,” Aloi said.
Students who volunteer learn more about children with different abilities, and gain knowledge and skills to interact with them.
“I loved the Thanksgiving event this year,” said Christie Rossig, the advisor for the club. “It was so great to see everyone sharing and saying what they are thankful for.”
The Thanksgiving event was an event in which the children were able to cook alongside with their helpers. They put together a meal and shared what they were thankful for.
The program offers movie nights, dance parties, puzzles, crafts and themed events located at either Pascack Valley or Pascack Hills High School on a regular schedule. This allows the campers to have a variety of options to choose from.
“We are trying to destigmatize disabilities because there’s definitely a perception from what I noticed where kids with disabilities can’t play the same or need to be playing differently,” Aloi said. “But this club is trying to say that just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do it.”
Aloi believes that Camp Raspberry sends an encouraging message to their campers and students to make a change in the world.