Lawyer’s dream to build a camp for kids nears reality July 15, 2000 Regular News Lawyer’s dream to build a camp for kids nears reality It won’t be long before sick and disabled children in Manatee County will have an opportunity to fish, hike and tell ghost stories around the camp fire, thanks the efforts of Bradenton lawyer Edwin T. Mulock. Mulock is on pace to open his not-for-profit Dream Oaks S.W.A.M.P. campground in eastern Manatee County next summer. Building a camp for terminally ill and disabled children has been a dream of Mulock’s since he met many seriously ill children while he was preparing to receive a heart transplant in 1995. “Right now we are planning a program that will provide a day camp with afternoon therapy programs and a sleepover camp for children with special needs,” said Mulock, a former member of the Bar’s Board of Governors. “The camp will be designed to serve children who are chronically ill, both mentally or physically challenged, and those who are disabled and at-risk.” The goal of Dream Oaks S.W.A.M.P. (Special Wishes and Magical Play) is simply to provide the children with a normal camping experience, Mulock said. “We hope that by allowing children with special needs to participate in a camping experience surrounded by their peers and supportive staff, the children’s personal and emotional growth and development will be aided,” he said. “We will encourage self-acceptance and appreciation for the inherent wholeness in all individuals regardless of disability and promote an understanding between the disabled and nondisabled populations.” Personal and emotional growth of the campers will be fostered through arts and crafts, association with animals, and various outdoor activities. “Interaction with animals and nature is an essential component of a child’s development,” Mulock said. “Aquatic therapy, art therapy, equestrian therapy, humor therapy, music therapy, nutritional therapy, pet therapy, and recreational therapy will also be included to address the specific needs of particular children being served in the camp. “In short, this will be good old fashioned camping fun.” All activities will be detailed and altered for the capabilities of each attending group. The camp also will continually be investigating new programs and concepts to assist the children to better cope with their disabilities or diseases by bonding and blending them with others, and by building steps to a greater self-confidence and strengthening life skills, Mulock said. While the Manatee County Commission has already agreed to allow the nonprofit Foundation for Dreams, Inc., to build and operate the youth camp on 16 vacant acres at the county’s Rye Wilderness Park, Mulock said negotiations are almost complete that will allow for the use of an already existing camp in Manatee County consisting of 385 acres. Mulock said community support for the project also has been overwhelming. “I have been able to secure from dear friends of mine and to children in this community the help of Zoller, Najjar & Shroyer engineering, Fawley Bryant architects, Bruce Williams Homes, and Gigliotti Construction, and others,” he said, adding plans are already drawn up to build the cabins, a recreational hall and all other buildings necessary to complete the camp. Mulock anticipates the summer program will run from June through August and have four sessions serving 32 campers or more per session per month beginning on Thursday and ending on Sunday. “When I was growing up my dad used to refer to us kids as you little critters, and I thought Florida is a swamp, so swamp critters,” Mulock said. “That’s how we came up with swamp critters and we have a song written about the camp which includes the theme `Swamp Critters and the Dream Oaks Gang.’” While support for the project has been incredible, Mulock said the only difficult part is raising the money to construct the camp. “I found the raising of money is very competitive,” Mulock said. “There are a lot of needy causes out there.” He said the local legal community has been instrumental in helping to raise money and providing donations, and he has received “a lot of real positive feedback” from people commending him, as a lawyer, for spearheading the effort. “I’m excited about it and can’t wait to go out there and see these little kids and see the smiles on their faces,” Mulock said. “It is going to be a thrill for me, and I think it is going to say a lot for what we try to do as lawyers. We give back a lot to the community, and I’m proud of that fact and always have been.” For more information contact the Foundation for Dreams, Inc., at (941) 748-2104.