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Teen volunteers help add fun back to lives of displaced kids

New friends sang “Happy Birthday” to Edrell Wilson onWednesday.

The birthday girl’s song was part of the afternoon’s campactivities for young shelter residents staying at FaithPresbyterian Church. Following the song, the 5-year-old then spentsome time filling in the white spaces in a coloring book.

“I’ve been knowing how to color since I was 4,” Edrell saidproudly of her talent.

As Edrell colored the picture in her book, other shelterchildren made paper-bag puppets, rode in play cars and played onthe playgrounds.

Helping the children enjoy their surroundings were a group ofBrookhaven High School students who have been conducting the daycamps at several local shelters since last week’s HurricaneKatrina. Brad Carr, Allison Dann, Mason Dixon, Anne Houston Cupitand her sister Maggie serve as “camp counselors” at theshelters.

“We’re going to Faith, St. James (Missionary Baptist Church) andSt. Paul (M.B. Church),” said Carr, whose mother, Kim, is thedisaster chairwoman for the local Red Cross chapter.

Camp leaders said those churches, as well as Macedonia BaptistChurch, have the most children. Carr said the group goes to onechurch in the morning and one in the afternoon, with anywhere fromfive to 15 camp participants.

“It depends on who’s here and who’s left the shelter,” Carrsaid. “It’s different each day.”

Carr appreciated the assistance the camp leaders have receivedin carrying out their activities.

“National (Red Cross) has been really good about getting usstuff, and a bunch of stuff has been donated to help us out,” Carrsaid.

Carr downplayed any suggestion that their activities are aservice. “Fun” was word heard often from camp leaders.

“It’s fun,” said Anne Houston Cupit as she colored with Edrell.”It’s nice to be able to help out rather than just sit at home whenthe power was out.”

Carr and Dann also pointed out their activities are more than ababy-sitting service.

“It’s taking some of the stress off the parents and having toworry about what their kids are doing,” Dann said.

Carr said the camps have featured a variety of activities.

“We’ve been trying to do some crafts,” Carr said. “Mostly, theyjust want us to play with them and show them attention.”

One item never fails to attract attention, Carr said.

“They all want to play Mason’s guitar. That seems to be afavorite,” Carr said.

Carr said the camp group hopes to continue its current scheduleuntil school resumes next week. Future camps will depend on thestudents’ school activities.

“If school doesn’t get too much, we’re going to try to do oneshelter a day,” Carr said.

While the children have been their focus, Carr said the campleaders have also benefited from their experiences. He said he haslearned to be grateful for he has while also helping the childrenhave a good time.

“Even though they’re going through all this, the kids are stilllaughing and playing,” Carr said.