WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Campers at Camp M.A.T.E.S. usually practice yoga for 35 minutes daily.
However, the campers were joined during Wednesday's session by two special guests in University of South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley and tight end Jacob August.
"Being able to do something like yoga where yoga is for everyone and seeing the football players do it with them, I think, is a really cool experience and something that they'll remember forever," said Camp M.A.T.E.S. founder and director Dr. Allison Brazendale.
Bentley and August sat with campers and staffers during the yoga session for about an hour at Glenforest School in the relaxing setting. However, being on a yoga mat is nothing new for the two Gamecocks.
"We picked up yoga for flexibility because the more flexible you are, the stronger you can get, the faster you can run and things like that," August said. "We also know that it helps us get our mind off of football and, whenever we can do that, that also helps us because football has a lot of mental things that need to go in the game. So, doing yoga really us out and helps us being closer as a team."
Bentley and August said being with the campers on Wednesday was peaceful and provided an opportunity to bond with them as well.
"It just feels good helping kids like this out because anything really helps them," said August, "and we know it's important to us to hang out with them and it's important to them to hang out with us because that's just a figure they see in us and we just like to help."
"So many people can see through the videos and stuff how hard we work," Bentley added. "I feel like, sometimes, we're kind of distant from them. Kind of like we're in our own bubble doing our own thing. They're just waiting on Saturday essentially. So, it's always nice to be able to interact with the community and show that we're normal people, too."
The camp, now in its fourth year, works with children ages 5 through 18 with social skills deficits including ADHD, Autism, learning disabilities, and other developmental disabilities. Each week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the camp focuses on physical activity, social skills, nutrition, academics, and life skills each week with a skill theme. According to Dr. Brazendale, the camp has grown every year with kids making their way to the camp from all over the state. Still, the Autism Academy of South Carolina is looking to do more.
"We're actually writing a grant to Lululemon to expand the yoga services," said Dr. Brazendale. "Right now, we're able to offer free yoga for kids with special needs on the third Saturday of every month at Rooted in Wellbeing, but we want to increase those services to offer five to 10 yoga classes a week for free for kids with special needs."