Knights of The Realm

Published on Thursday, 31 July 2014 00:04 - Written by Emily Guevara, eguevara@tylerpaper.com

One by one, the campers who could, knelt down on one knee. With a sword in hand, Dustin Stephens tapped their right shoulder, then their left and finally their head.

“By the power granted me by St. George and St. Michael, arise Sir Mark, knight of the realm,” he said.

The campers rose, many with big smiles and a gleam in their eyes as they processed their new title.

“Hip hip hooray!” the other campers shouted with each new knight or dame.

The 60 adults at Camp Heyday were pleasantly surprised by a visit from Stephens, who is owner and executive director of Four Winds Productions, and several other members of the Four Winds Renaissance Faire.

On Tuesday, the visitors showed the campers their armor, allowed them to pet horses and conducted the knighting ceremony.

“It was awesome,” camper Amanda Potts said of the experience.

Camp Heyday is a weeklong residential summer camp for intellectually and/or developmentally delayed adults from ages 18 to 75.

Although many of the campers can walk, some were in wheelchairs. The same variations exist in communication. While some campers can talk, others communicated through the movement of their eyes or other means.

Camp activities included swimming, zip line, arts and crafts, dancing, nature studies and a talent show.

The visit from the Renaissance Faire people was just one of the activities.

Camp Director Jan Alderman said the camp, which has been going on for more than 30 years, is something the participants look forward to all year.

“This week to them, it is the Disneyland to us,” she said.

Camper Cheryl Smith, 52, of Tyler, has been coming to the camp for more than 25 years.

“I like coming here because it’s a lot of fun and you meet new people,” she said.

Shannon Powell, 49, of Tyler, said she likes the freedom at camp.

“I like that you get to stay an entire week and do whatever you want with no one telling you what to do and do activities like swimming and arts and crafts and other stuff like that,” she said.

Windie Staton, 44, of Lindale, said the camp is one-of-a-kind, and it does a lot of good for people with special needs, as well as the volunteers and members of the public who help out or visit the camp.

“It shows us how to all be accepting of others even with our differences because it opens their eyes to say, ‘Hey, maybe we’re all different,” she said.