By Jack Chavez
(April 8, 2021) Worcester Technical High School senior Brady Esham and Ocean Front Counseling will hold Operation Ocean Hope, an event for autistic and non-autistic children alike, at the Healing Arts Center in Berlin, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 10.
The event is for children ages 6-12 and is designed to allow them to participate in fun, social activities with peers that will be broken down into manageable steps that fit each child’s abilities, according to a release.
While children who do not have autism can participate, the event is geared toward autistic children. Social distancing guidelines and mask wearing will be in place.
Operation Ocean Hope is Esham’s capstone project for a BioMed course at Worcester Tech.
“One of my favorite things to do is help other people,” said Esham, 18, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. “I enjoy helping others and being able to make things just a little bit easier for other people.”
The event will have four activities: a drawing activity, a rock scavenger hunt, an indoor campfire and outdoor games such as cornhole. Each event is supervised by volunteers.
“(This project) has the opportunity to help a lot of people and will be able to benefit the community,” Esham said. “It is my last project of high school and will be the last major thing I do for the community before (leaving for college).”
Esham said he got the idea from a social skills sleepaway camp that he attends in Ontario, Canada. The skills he learned at the camp enabled him to move up the leadership chain as an adult leader for Boy Scouts of America Troop 225.
“Camp gave me confidence, … a lot of connections in the community and really is what will make this event successful, along with the support and hard work of (the volunteers and help from) Ocean Front,” he said.
Ocean Front Counseling provides therapies that are similar to the kind Esham said he experienced growing up, which made the firm a sensible choice to work with.
“I think (Operation Ocean Hope) is a great idea,” said Dr. Sharon Willey-Spurrier, Ocean Front president. “In the time we’ve (dealt with) covid, we’ve had a lot of separation, a lot people have felt isolation. Already people with autism are feeling more isolated and that it’s hard to have opportunities in a social setting.”
While this is Esham’s project, Willey-Spurrier said she hopes this event can be the precursor to similar, regularly scheduled events in the future.
Esham said he plans to study education in college and hopes to be an elementary school teacher.
Pre-registration for the event is encouraged but not required and can be done by contacting Dr. Sharon Spurrier at email@example.com. Any questions can be directed to her as well.