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Center Ridge Outpost Camp making a difference for those with autism

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:43 PM CDT
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - There’s a camp, right here in the Pine Belt, making a difference in the lives of people with autism from all around the country.

For 21 summers, through the Teaam Autism program, Center Ridge Outpost camp has been a home away from home for families.

The man behind the summer camp, Dr. Mark Yeager is William Carey University’s Assistant Professor and Special Education coordinator.

Yeager said as a teenager he felt a connection with people with autism and intellectual disabilities. He said at 16-years-old he worked at Ellisville State School running the Boy Scouts program.

“Probably the thing that most connects me is that for the majority, it’s nice to have somebody who really appreciates the fact that you are trying to help them,” Yeager said.

Yeager explained that summer led to 30 years of specializing in Autism.

Now, Yeager said through TEAAM, Together Enhancing Autism Awareness in Mississippi, he works with Camp Center Ridge Outpost in Smith County. It gives families a break and individuals with autism a chance to make friends and see they are not alone.

“The cool thing about the camp is it’s just like every other summer camp. You get to do everything that every other summer camp kid gets to do: swim, zip line, arts and crafts, music, archery, you get to do all the cool stuff. The difference is is that everything is developed to understand a person’s needs if they have autism,” Yeager said.

Yeager added that’s difficult, but he said Camp Center Ridge Outpost is good at understanding the needs and difficulties facing those with autism and creating an environment where they can thrive.

“Our families also get a much-needed break, that’s the thing, caring for some children with Autism is a never-ending line of frustration and exhaustion. We’re able to give families a respite during the summer,” Yeager explained.

Yeager said families from all over the country come to Smith County for what the camp offers: Kids meeting other children who are similar to them, resources to help families, not just during the summer but through the year and improving the lives of Mississippians with autism.

Yeager said the camp is always looking for camp counselors, volunteers to help with camp maintenance and, of course, any monetary help folks would like to give.

Yeager said the camp is self-funded. If you would like to contact the camp, Yeager said email is best: TakeAction@TEAAM.org You can also call 601-782-9005.

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