Caroline “Callie” Bennett, a junior at Lely High School, will be honored as the overall winner at the regional “Do the Right Thing’’ picnic on Saturday.
“I was in total shock when I learned I was the overall winner,” Callie said. “The Sheriff surprised me by showing up to my marine biology class to make the announcement.”
Callie, 17, did not receive the reward for doing one act of kindness, but for continually dedicating herself to a special cause and paying-it-forward by getting others involved. During the summer, she works at a camp that caters to people with mental and physical disabilities called Camp Able.
Camp Able was founded in 2007 in Bradenton and gives campers the chance to experience activities such as scuba diving, canoeing and making arts and crafts. Because all the campers have some form of disability, the camp needed to find a special staff where 24/7 supervision and care is necessary.
Not only did Callie sign up as a staff member, she also recruited eight other young adults to join the team. They gave up a week of their summer to work 17-hour days, seven days in a row with no compensation.
“The first year I participated [in Camp Able] I got one other friend to join me, we told our friends of our experiences when we came back,” Callie said. “They were excited and decided they wanted to do it last summer.”
The interest in joining the staff for this year’s camp has nearly quadrupled.
“There are some people on a wait list,” Callie added.
Callie’s mother Dody Bennett said she’s pleased her daughter “has grown to love this kind of work.”
“We wanted to expose her to every population of people and that’s why we always brought her to special needs camps we’ve worked at since she was born,” Bennett said. “Callie learns as much from campers as they do from her.”
Callie has not decided where she would like to go to college. She plans on always being involved in helping people with special needs but wants to have a career in the arts. She hopes to get a degree in interior design and eventually have her own show on TLC or HGTV.
Callie will not be able to attend the picnic because she is helping out during a weekend retreat for special needs kids in Mississippi. Her father will be there to accept the award and $2,000 savings bond on her behalf.
Interested in signing up a camper or joining the staff? Click here to visit Camp Able's Web site for more information.