Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab hosts special-needs children

Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab hosts special-needs children
Sea Stars buddy camp helps kids with developmental disabilities explore the beauty of Alabama's coast. (contributed)

Lindsay Davis lives 300 miles from Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab, but that isn’t deterring her from telling her schoolteacher where their class should go on its next field trip.

“I want to bring my whole school class here so they can all enjoy it. I want to come back.”

Lindsay was one of more than a dozen children who participated in Sea Stars, a three-day buddy camp designed for students with special needs and their guardians. JoAnn Moody, a marine educator at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, said the camp was designed to give the children and their families a chance to explore Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast in a hands-on and fun atmosphere.

“We know some of them are not used to being on the water, so hopefully they will expand that comfort zone out in the environment,” Moody said. “We are a marine education facility and that’s certainly what we hope to share with them, and to have a really good time, as well.”

Sea Stars buddy camp helps kids with developmental disabilities from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Moody said the Sea Stars camp was first held in 2011 but a lack of financial support kept the program dormant until this year when organizations such as the Rotary Club of Mobile and Krewe of Kindness donated the money needed to resurrect it.

“We were determined to do it this year,” Moody said. “The counselors have donated their time so that the camp is happening at only a small cost to the participants. That is really great.”

Participants explored Dauphin Island’s marine habitats including Mobile Bay, the salt marsh and the beach by boat, bus and walking. Darrel McKinney said he and his son had a great time.

“You can’t really put a price tag on it,” McKinney said. “You’re watching the wonder in your child’s eyes as they experience nature in our state. He just enjoyed the whole experience and I enjoyed watching him build these memories. I probably had more fun than he did.”

“Taking the kids out to the beach and having them hold ghost crabs in their hands, probably for the first time, and the way they encouraged each other to do things they maybe had not done before, such as touching a fish or holding that ghost crab — it’s just been really amazing to see them encourage each other and have these kind of new experiences,” Moody added. “They are so excited and we are excited for them to have this opportunity.”

To learn more about the Sea Stars camp at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, visit disl.org.

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