OTD students partner with Camp SonRise for weekend retreat

Twenty students from the Huntington University doctoral program in occupational therapy class of 2018 attended a weekend retreat for adults with intellectual disabilities over the weekend of Jan. 22 through 24. Each student was paired with a camper and helped them through all of their daily tasks and activities.

This is the second year the OTD program has partnered with Camp SonRise to provide students with a service experience. Camp SonRise, a ministry of Bethesda Lutheran Ministries, is an overnight camp for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities that provides respite for their caregivers for a few days. The partnership came about after Dr. Ruth Ford, director of occupational therapy, met with a representative from Bethesda Lutheran Ministries, a Christian organization that provides homes for people with developmental disabilities across the country, about the possibility of a fieldwork placement. The OTD program offers a missions trip opportunity to Haiti every January, and Ford sought a comparable experience for the students who were not involved in that trip.

“[Camp] SonRise is a Christian organization, and one of the goals of the camp is to provide ministry for the campers,” said Dr. Sara Best, assistant professor of occupational therapy. “[SonRise] and the volunteers participate in Bible studies, worship and prayer sessions. The volunteers meet on Saturday to discuss the experience and how we have seen God during our time at the camp and in our interactions with the campers. The primary goal of the mission trip is to prepare students for the life-long task of serving others.”

The students keep journals documenting their observations and experiences throughout the camp. That data is compiled and used later in the year as part of a research study, along with information gathered during a focus group session. The students then analyze the data and complete a scholarly writing assignment that is ready for publication in a scholarly journal.

“As a Christian university, HU is already distinguishable from other programs in our mission to educate students through the teachings of Christ,” Best said. “The foundations of occupational therapy align well with a Christian view in that we make a commitment to serve others. Our understanding of the Christian faith and our incorporation of faith in the classroom and in experiences like SonRise provides students with a well-rounded and empathetic foundation on which to build their identities in the OT field and in their communities.”