EAST MANATEE -- Sitting in a circle around a row of upturned five-gallon paint cans, youngsters were getting their groove on Wednesday at Dream Oaks Camp.
Professional drummer Allan Benavides led the campers in drumming that was sometimes synchronized, sometimes not, but always enthusiastic.
It was much the same in another cabin down a paved path through the dense woods of Camp Flying Eagle, where arts and crafts director Kayla Cassella, 20, coached youngsters ranging in age from 7 to 17 in making superhero-themed masks, capes and bottles.
"It's cool to see what they come up with," Cassella said. "They get to get out of their comfort zone and do whatever they want to with it."
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Dream Oaks Camp started its 15th season this week at 16110 Dream Oaks Place, just north of Upper Manatee River Road.
The camp offers summer activities for children with special needs and chronic or terminal illnesses.
Greta Van Collie, who teaches at Lee Middle School, says Dream Oaks provides a camp without barriers, offering campers a chance to play and have the best possible experience.
The demand for services at Dream Oaks Camp continues to grow, with weekly sessions planned through Aug. 7. One of the attractions is that while campers get to have old-fashioned fun in the summer, their parents get a bit of respite.
"This is the first summer that we have kids on a waiting list," said Elena Cassella, director of development for Dream Oaks.
While programs and facilities have grown and improved over the years, Susannah Cripe, executive director, yearns that some day programs can be extended year round and also include young adults.
The public is invited to see programs at Dream Oaks by appointment by calling 941-746-5659.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.