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Dancing to Their Own Music : Recreation: A group with developmental disabilities takes a week's break from the daily grind. What sets the camp in San Pedro apart is that the participants take an active role in planning activities.

September 16, 1993|DEBORAH SCHOCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a new take on the singin'-'round-the-campfire routine: a dozen campers in a semicircle of wheelchairs, chanting the lyrics of a popular rap song.

Whoomp! (There It Is).

Whoomp! (There It Is).

Whoomp! (There It Is).

Gloria Lang, 33, nodded her head rapidly, keeping time to the music blaring from a portable tape player. Danny Borsum, 37, grinned as he swayed to the thumping beat.

The group was rehearsing a musical show as part of a day camp at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, where more than 40 South Bay adults with cerebral palsy or other developmental disabilities have spent the week singing, exercising and exploring the San Pedro shoreline.

For Lang and Borsum, this camp sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy/Spastic Children's Foundation offers a chance to see friends and spend time outdoors.

"I like the fresh air. . . . I like being by the ocean," said Lang, 33, who lives in Harbor House, a Lomita residential

facility for the disabled.

Most of all, she enjoys the songs.

"I love to dance. I love music," said Lang, who recommended the Tag Team song "Whoomp! (There It Is)" for a Friday talent show.

What sets this camp apart, organizers say, is that the campers, who range in age from 22 to 72, play an active role in choosing events, including what to perform in the talent show, and selecting menus for the week--from pizza to teriyaki.

In return, they get a break from their routine, which often includes a daily job in workshops for the disabled run by a variety of public and private agencies in the Los Angeles area.

"Just like everybody else, they get up at 5 in the morning and go to workshop. They need a vacation. That's the whole point," said Julie Davidson, recreation therapist for United Cerebral Palsy/Spastic Children's Foundation, an organization that serves developmentally disabled people.

Davidson launched the first day camp at Point Fermin Park last year as an alternative to the overnight camps for the handicapped in the Los Angeles area. Some could not afford the overnight camps, and others would require too much medical care for an overnight stay, said Sharon Collins, United Cerebral Palsy director of development.

The cost of this week's camp, $240 per person, is paid by donations and grants.

All but one of this week's campers are in wheelchairs. Most have cerebral palsy, a disorder of the central nervous system caused during pregnancy or after birth that impairs muscle control. About 4,500 babies are born with cerebral palsy each year, according to United Cerebral Palsy.

Borsum was born prematurely with underdeveloped lungs that could not carry sufficient oxygen to his brain, causing cerebral palsy. He cannot walk and has only minimal use of his hands, said his mother, Ann Borsum of Long Beach.

Borsum works at a Long Beach sheltered workshop, where he counts and bags rubber stoppers.

But this week he is on vacation, basking in the sunshine and joining in the chorus of "Whoomp! (There It Is)."

"He loves music, and he loves the outdoors," said Ann Borsum. "I think he'd rather go to camp than anything else in the world."

Lang shares Danny Borsum's enthusiasm.

One of the best parts of the camp, Lang said, is seeing old friends and meeting new people.

"I love the activities, and I just like to have fun," she said.

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