Mississippi State's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability is announcing a memorial scholarship honoring a former Camp Jabber Jaw camper.
Alice R. "Allie" Barkley of Monticello, a longtime participant in the center's Camp Jabber Jaw, passed away suddenly in December--just one day after her 25th birthday. To serve as a living memorial, parents Earl and Sissy Barkley chose to establish a scholarship in her name.
Named for MSU's late vice president who led in making the university more accessible to those with physical challenges, the T.K. Martin Center provides comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluations to remove limitations through the application of assistive technology, allowing individuals to participate in educational, vocational and leisure activities to the fullest degree they choose.
Established by the center in 1997, Camp Jabber Jaw serves children between the ages of five and 21 with severe speech-language disabilities by helping them, their caregivers and families learn to use augmentative and alternative communication devices.
Held last week [June 2-6], the 2014 camp brought together 17 young people from Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee.
"Many times, these children who use augmentative communication devices are the only ones in their community or school who use augmentative communication devices, so it's really cool for their parents to get to visit with other parents whose children use augmentative communication systems," said center director Janie Cirlot-New.
During the camp's concluding program Friday, speech-language pathologist Laurie Craig shared a special story. She said camper Rachel Dickey of Bessemer, Alabama, who has attended for seven years and became one of Allie Barkley's closest friends, had requested donations be made to the new scholarship fund in lieu of receiving birthday presents for her 16th birthday.
"Rachel has a very loving heart; she likes to think about others," Lisa Dickey said of her daughter.
In addition to thanking the Dickey and Barkley families for their contributions, Craig presented the Barkleys with a photo-filled scrapbook that captured Allie and Rachel's strong friendship over the years.
Throughout the week, Rachel and others campers had taken part in a variety of vocabulary-enriching--and fun--activities inspired by popular children's books, including "Charlotte's Web," "The Carrot Seed" and "The Cat in the Hat," among others.
"After we read 'The Carrot Seed,' the children got to plant seeds, go through a garden maze and make a snack that was like a carrot growing in a cupcake, which was pretty cool," Cirlot-New said.
Other program highlights included horseback riding at the Mississippi Horse Park made possible by R.I.D.E.S. of Caledonia, swimming at the Sanderson Center and attending a camp dance.
Also benefitting from the weeklong gathering were 22 graduate students in speech pathology from Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women and University of Southern Mississippi. By working one-on-one with campers each day, the future professionals received hours of intensive, hands-on training and experience, Cirlot-New said.
For Henry LaCount of West Lafayette, Indiana, and mother Susan Mendrysa, the 2014 camp was a first-time experience for both.
"The camp counselors were pretty awesome; they did a fabulous job with the kids," Mendrysa said, adding that she felt "the best part of the program is that the kids can see other device-users because they don't usually see that in their classrooms."
She also expressed a special appreciation for "the sessions for parents to talk amongst each other and meet with people who work with these devices."
Dianne Hughes of Ardmore, Tennessee, said the annual camp enables granddaughter Georgia Justice to "meet, interact with and learn from other children that are like her."
Hughes said she was grateful for "being able to get ideas from other parents and to see what issues they're dealing with and have dealt with in the past. These parents are wonderful, and they are just a wealth of knowledge."
Learn more about the T.K. Martin Center at www.tkmartin.msstate.edu. Follow the Center on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tkmartincenter and Twitter @TKMartinCenter.
To make a donation to the Allie Barkley Camp Jabber Jaw Scholarship fund, contact the MSU Foundation at 662-325-7000.
Complete information about Mississippi State University is available at www.msstate.edu.