More than 120 North Shore students with autism, in grades K through 12, attended a field day at West Hills Day Camp in Huntington last Friday, June 10. The event was designed to give students with autism the chance to experience fun athletic and recreational activities within a safe and positive environment, while providing them a forum that fosters growth and development.
Celeste Gagliardi, principal of Gersh Academy, said the day was a complete success and a wonderful experience.
“Today is the day they get to show how much they’ve grown,” Gagliardi said after the event on Friday in a phone interview. “It was wonderful to watch all of these kids just be themselves.”
Students were able to access numerous athletic and recreational facilities, including several swimming pools, ziplines, supervised rope activities, bounce houses, a playground and an arts and crafts center. The different activities helped develop students’ mental and emotional growth among their peers, while learning skills in athleticism, socialization, teamwork and hand-eye coordination.
The day also included Gersh Academy students enjoying a barbecue lunch prepared and served by individuals with autism between the ages of 18 and 23, who are participants in Gersh Experience. The program offers young adults on the autism spectrum life skills, along with social, psychological and educational support, while they develop their independence. Three of the students will be working at the West Hills Day Camp this summer.
“It’s beautiful to see them interact … it’s the cherry on top of the year,” Gagliardi said.
Gersh Academy is a private school for children with special needs in K-12. They have several locations across the Island, including Hauppauge and Huntington.