Georgia's Camp Big Heart has drawn two big-hearted teens who volunteer their summers to help at camps for children with special needs.
Alaina and Vanessa Kemp, 17-year-old juniors at Lakeside High School, have spent part of their summer breaks for the past five years volunteering at various special needs camps throughout the area and state. Their volunteer work, which they say brings them great rewards, has pointed them in a possible career direction.
"I want to be a preschool special-education teacher," Alaina said. "My sister wants to be a special-education teacher and work with horses and special-education kids."
Alaina wants to one day start a camp for children with special needs, and Vanessa has hopes of becoming a hippotherapist, someone who uses horses as a means of treating individuals with movement disorders. The twins own two horses that are boarded in Martinez.
"I love the kids," Vanessa said about the volunteer camps she works with. "They have good personalities, and they are fun to be around."
The girls said that one of the most disturbing things they have witnessed were people who didn't understand others with physical and mental disabilities and therefore shun them.
Alaina (left) and Vanessa Kemp are 17-year-old twins who attend Lakeside High School and have volunteered their time for the past five years to various camps for children with special needs.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"They can't help that they are in the situation they are in," Vanessa said, who with Alaina is on the varsity women's team with Augusta Junior Rowers. "They are people, too. A lot of them are smarter than most people think. I can't understand why people don't like them."
In addition to volunteering at Camp Big Heart and Columbia County's Camp All-Stars, the sisters have spent two sessions helping out at Blue Ribbon Riders in Martinez. The girls also are members of Lakeside High School's Family Career and Community Leaders of America and Students Against Drunk Driving chapters.
Alaina and Vanessa also appeared in several commercials as children and had a few scenes in the 1995 movie Fluke.
The twins, who are the daughters of Tom and Wanda Kemp of Evans, say their work has made them want to do more. Next summer, the girls will devote two weeks to Camp Big Heart; in previous years they have only volunteered for a one-week session.
"These two girls demonstrate not only a maturity that is beyond their years, but compassion beyond measure," said Scott Norton, director of Camp All-Stars, previously known as Camp Free to Be Me. "Alaina and Vanessa dedicated most of their summer towards making a difference in the lives of special needs students. They not only impacted the students' lives, but mine as well."
Norton said special needs camps depend on student volunteers like the Kemp sisters.
"They make a difference in a good camp and an outstanding camp for the students," he said. "They are truly model citizens for everyone to recognize and strive to be like."
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