Record-Journal (Meriden, CT)

August 15, 1998

Author: Mike Wright, Record-Journal staff

Jon Olson / Record-Journal


MIDDLEFIELD -- Like mother, like daughter.


Since she was 8 years old, Meghen Fitzgibbons, now 18, has spent her summers at the John J. Nerden Regional Training Center where her mother, Daryl Fitzgibbons, once volunteered. The time spent watching her mother work with the campers -- whose difficulties range from physical handicaps to impaired vision, behavioral and emotional problems and mental retardation -- helped Fitzgibbons realize her calling. Like her mother, a special education teacher at Roger Sherman School, Meghen is entering the special education field. She will attend Southern Connecticut State University this fall as a special education major.

For the past two years, Meghen has worked as a camp staff member.

"It's always been great," said Meghen. "I love it so much. It's a challenge.

No two days are the same. I just love the kids." The challenge is only part of the reason she enjoys working with children who have special needs. "It's more helping them out and helping them to become better people and overcome their challenges." Not everyone can be successful in this field, she said.

"You need a lot of patience, and without understanding you can't get anywhere," she said.

Camp supervisors praise her work.

"The kids really love her," said Jennifer Puttre, assistant camp director.

"Kids request her to be their guardian angel." Puttre also said Meghen has a way of "turning children around." The 34-year-old camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday though Friday, sits on 15 acres at the Powder Ridge Ski Area. The land was donated by the former owners of Powder Ridge.

The free camp now has 120 enrolled campers ranging in age from 3 to 63.

Various community organizations, including the Probus Club, Meriden Lions Club, Meriden Kiwanis Club and Meriden Motorcycle Club, fund the camp.

Activities include swimming, arts and crafts, music and outdoor sports.

"I think there is no better place for them to spend their summer," Putre said.

Participants agreed.

"I like it better than anything," said 7-year old Michael Raucci, who has attended the camp for several years.

The program, which serves mostly children in the central Connecticut area, has not changed much over the years.

"We don't try to eliminate and change," Puttre said. "Every year, we try to add."