Camp I am Special is a unique summer camp for children with special needs, offered through Catholic Charities, that is nestled near the St. Johns River. On July 29, the camp received a special visit by the The PLAYERS Championship’s Red Coats, who stopped to offer their philanthropic services by helping throw the kids a pizza party to kick off the final week of festivities.
“The Red Coats run the volunteers at The PLAYERS golf tournament,” said Blue Coat and volunteer, Matt Welch. “We’ve got over 2,000 volunteers. Everyone in the Red Coat is either the chairman or was a past chairman. The Blue Coats are the red-coats in training.”
Adam Campbell is a newly selected Red Coat and was the 2019 chairman for The PLAYERS.
“We get to kick off our ‘giving back week’ at Camp I Am Special,” Campbell said. “We’re only able to do this because of the volunteers that contribute and give their time and effort to over 300 local charities that we support.”
With so many memories and fun stories of volunteering with others, Campbell describes the Red Coats program as a volunteer family. “
“We expand that family every year,” he continued. “It’s pretty awesome and is just an enjoyable experience. This was my 20th year volunteering.”
Welch said he’s volunteered with The PLAYERS for 14 years and has been a Blue Coat for the past three. Although it does feel great to make a difference and give back to the community, particularly Camp I Am Special, Welch believes the unsung heroes are the “Buddies,” highschoolers and young adults who spend their summers volunteering and getting to know the campers.
“To me, they’re the most awesome part of the group out here,” he said, looking around at all the campers playing with their new friends and “buddies.” “Those guys have a genuine love and care for the campers they get assigned to.”
Camp leader and Buddy, Dawson Wakefield, has been volunteering at Camp I Am Special for the past four years. This is his first year as a Leader.
He reminisced on the year before, when he was swimming with a camper, Jacob Smith.
“We were just having a good time,” Wakefield said. “Then, he told me he loved me and gave me a hug. That was the one moment I knew this was what I wanted to do. I immediately signed up for camp leading and here I am. It’s been the best summer I’ve had.”
After a loud and happy sing-a-long and cheerful welcome to the TPC Red Coats, campers trickled inside the superhero-themed cafeteria for their pizza and snacks. Like Wakefield said, it seemed like one of the best summer these campers have ever had.