Discovering the Potentials of Camp
by Douglas Summers
The camp experience has been a beneficial one for my daughter and my family because of the enormous potential that it provides for my child and for those children who are mentally, emotionally and physically challenged. The breadth of life skills that the counselors provide and instill amongst the children who attend is phenomenal. Every time my daughter returns from camp, I see a new girl emerging. Many life experiences, both in fun and real challenges, she experiences for a first time. Many of these same experiences are and usually only duplicated when she is at camp. Every year she returns to see those same friends she had spent time with in the past year or years. That friendship continues forward and the experiences live on through tales of experiences at the pool or down by the horse trails. Camp helps promote individuality amongst the children and a desire to become as independent as one can be. Camp also lets my daughter, a few times a year, just be a kid and be able to play and have fun that she sees her peers do on a day-to-day basis.
The camp experience runs deeper than to provide benefit to only the children that attend. Those same experiences are then shared to the rest of the family via stories and photos that were taken during camp. It provides families, husband and wives, and siblings a time to experience and rekindle relationships that sometimes get forgotten or pushed aside due to a sometimes constant 24-7 caring situation of a child with a disability. Many times this provides a vehicle for my wife and I to, using a very blunt word, escape and have fun with just the two of us. It allows our family to sometimes pay attention to the siblings of the family, who are usually overdue for attention. It allows for us as a family to do those activities that we ignore or justify that we can’t do with them because of the difficulty of getting our disabled child around.
Camp is a overwhelming experience, not only for those who are disabled. I have received hundreds of comments from people who don’t get to experience the camp, as much as our family does, but have gone for a visit. The serene setting is breathtaking and a wonderful atmosphere for challenged children. Every year my daughter anticipates for the application to arrive in the mail. She knows that she will be seeing her friends, who are just like her the upcoming summer. These kids know that they are different. We as peers in our adult world sometimes forget that they really do know and understand. Too much is taken for granted. At camp they face this challenge head on and don’t look back. They teach the kids how to deal and live with their challenges and how to transfer that energy in a positive fashion for them to survive tomorrow and the next day. The counselors and administration have, even though I’m sure very frustrating, a very satisfying job. Experience camp just once, as a parent of a child with a disability or as a peer and you will never want to leave. It provides a high sense of peace and harmony that most people strive to have everyday.