Music camp honors local musician
Eric Winter was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, and grew up as a young boy with many physical disabilities.
But this did not stop his natural love and attraction to music, his mother Judy Winter said.
Over time, Eric Winter’s condition deteriorated. His health took a turn for the worse, and he died at the age of 12 in 2003, but not before he started composing music, Judy Winter said.
“He was very, very bright,” she said. “Music meant everything to him.”
In his honor, Judy Winter and her husband, Dick Winter founded the Eric “RicStar” Winter Music Therapy Summer Camp in June 2004, the summer following their son’s death. The camp is exactly what he would have asked for, Judy Winter said.
“We had more than $10,000 in memorial gifts in his name, and as a result of that, my husband and I said, ‘What would Eric want us to do with this money?’” she said. “How would he want us to honor his life and legacy? We knew it had to be music therapy.”
The annual Eric ‘RicStar’ Winter Music Therapy Summer Camp is a three-day long program that features several age groups, from young children to adults. It began Thursday at the MSU Community Music School. The program caters to special needs children and adults, but it is not a requirement to be part of the camp, Judy Winter said.
Founding the camp, the Winter family asked Eric Winter’s former therapist, Cindy Edgerton, to help direct the camp. Eight years later, Edgerton remains as director of the camp and works with the school, where the camp is held annually.
Today, Edgerton helps sign in the attendees, and said the program has a waiting list by early March each year.
The program brings chances to disabled children that are not offered in many other places, which makes it popular among families with disabled children, Edgerton said.
“For the past eight years, the camp has been a success, it has been a success ever since it started,” she said. “The opportunities are just amazing. Everyone here is able to succeed, able to celebrate their abilities.”
Volunteer and music therapy senior Lindsey Hemming said she has been working at the camp for the past three years, and could not imagine being without the campers.
“It’s very fulfilling and exciting, I am so happy I get to go into this,” she said. “It’s also a blast, and a great experience.”
Every attendee at the camp is given the chance to play a musical instrument, sing, dance or do a number of musical activities, all of whom have no set standards, Hemming said.
“Music is one the most accessible things, meaning pretty much everybody enjoys music whether it’s listening or engaging to it,” she said. “It’s also something everyone can have a successful experience in.”
Thirteen-year-old Dewitt resident Alex Norman, a camp participant, said he has been attending for four years, and really likes the music instruments provided in the program.
“I like to play the drums because it’s awesome (to) bang stuff,” Norman said. “It’s cool, and I like it.”
With more than 30 participants this year, Edgerton and Judy Winter both said they refuse to see disabilities, only abilities, in the campers, and encourage others to do so.
“I hope that the word can get out there that when next time you see someone that looks (like) he or she might have a disability, think of that person as what they’re able to do, not what they’re not able to do,” Edgerton said.