By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
Campers crowded the theater room at Peaceable Kingdom Sunday evening, reuniting with old camp buddies, challenging each other in games of pool or air hockey and getting ready for four days of fishing, archery, zip-lining, horseback riding and many other summer camp activities. It was the first day of Camp Soaring Eagle and campers were ready to get things started.
"It's awesome," said 13-year-old Prinzzz Purnell, a fourth-year participant in a camp designed specifically for children with neurological disorders.
Prinzzz, who is wheelchair-bound due to spina bifida, is known by campers and staff alike for his dance skills. Last year, he performed "Thriller" at the talent show. As for this year, he hasn't decided what to wow the audience with.
At home in Killeen where Prinzzz attends Rancier Middle School, he said he spends most of his time on the computer or playing outside. But at Peaceable Kingdom, he said, "They have things that I can do here."
Everything at the camp can accommodate children in wheelchairs or walkers, allowing kids to test their limits. Even the putt-putt course has putters made for kids in wheelchairs.
Camp counselor Ben Bailey said he loves to watch the children overcome their fears of the zip line.
"Every one of them that gets up there is intimidated by the wall," said the fifth-year counselor. "Some don't think they have the ability to do it. Then they get down and that's all they want to do."
Children at Camp Soaring Eagle are all patients of the Scott & White Children's Hospital neurological unit and don't have to pay anything to attend the camp, said Melinda Kirkpatrick, co-director of Camp Soaring Eagle.
"This is a place where they can go and feel like any other kid," she said, adding that watching the children interact and support each other is one of the biggest joys she gets from the camp.
"The compassion they have toward each other is unbelievable," Kirkpatrick said. "That zip line is high. But they don't make fun of each other when someone gets scared. They encourage each other."
Thirty-five children, ages 7 to 15 years old from across Central Texas, are at Camp Soaring Eagle until Thursday.
Jonathan Daye, a 12-year-old student at Manor Middle School in Killeen with cerebral palsy, said he looks forward to seeing old friends each summer at the camp. He summed up Camp Soaring Eagle in a few concise words: "It's fun activities and friendship."
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.