EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Daisy Recreation, one of East Brunswick’s premier programs for people with special needs, held a drive-by parade through town on May 16, 2020. In their cars, Daisy staff visited several families whose special needs children use their services. The parade comes in wake of the announcement that Daisy’s summer camp program and East Brunswick’s rec camp would be canceled this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The parade, which included a lineup of cars, trucks, and even a motorcycle, snaked throughout East Brunswick, where Daisy faculty drove past the homes of regular attendees of their summer programs. Daisy Recreation has long been a staple program in East Brunswick, and while the parade may not make up for its summer schedule being canceled, the staff hopes that it provided a bit of levity during an otherwise dark time.

“The best part of the parade was getting to see the excitement and smiles on the faces of all the Daisy participants and their families,” said Siobhan McLaughlin, a counselor who has worked at the camp program for the past ten years. “It brought me so much joy to see them all and to see how happy they were to see all of us. I loved that they each got to be the center of attention for the day, and I hope we made all the participants feel special and loved.”

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Senior staff at Daisy have been holding Zoom meetings with their summer program participants, according to Janice Pennington, a coordinator at Daisy. Due to the pandemic and social distancing measures, they were unable to see each other in person, which is why the parade was organized. “It was absolutely as much fun for us as for our guys,” said Pennington of the event. “It brought us a lot of smiles and definitely some tears.”

Canceling summer programs was a difficult decision for Daisy staff to make, but Pennington states that the health and wellbeing of the program’s campers, staff, and community is of the utmost importance. Still, she laments the camp’s summer closing. “Our camp has always been like a wonderful giant family vacation, filled with laughter and fun,” she said. “Nothing will fill that void, but we are hoping to continue our Zoom program with certain groups, and potentially plan another Daisy Drive or something like that.”

Daisy Recreation will continue to post activities and ideas for the future on its social media, as well as keeping in touch with associated families and campers. The hope is that after all of this, Summer 2021 will be better than ever for the camp. “Until then,” said Pennington, “We will stay #DaisyStrong.”