David D. had a method to his madness when he brought Bobby Jo and I together. Not only was it for friendship, but also to encourage me to come to MDA summer Camp.
What is summer camp you ask?
It is a weeklong experience for those with neuromuscular diseases (MD) ages 6-21 years. It is divided into two different weeks, 6-12 year-olds and 13-21 year-olds. It is held at an accessibly friendly camp site where there are no barriers. We have a one-on-one counselor to help us with our daily tasks and activities. Everything is geared so that we get every opportunity to participate in the activities. You name it, and we can do it. There is horseback riding, power soccer, hockey, arts and crafts, talent shows, dances, fishing, boating, swimming, and the list could go on. I have never known one person who did not like summer camp. Even the counselors a lot of times get more out of it than the campers. Ask monkeyposh (aka Jen)? Memories and friendships are two of the favorite things that come from MDA Camp (I feel). This sounds like a great opportunity to do a plug for MDA summer camp!! So, if anyone is interested in being a counselor at summer camp you must be at least 16 years old. I know there is always a need for volunteers to be a counselor. You would not regret it, I can promise you that! If you are within the ages of 6-21 and have a neuromuscular disease I encourage you to go to camp if you have not already. From one former camper to one another it is a week of no worries and nothing but a good time! To find out where your local MDA office is to inquire about camp you may go to www.mda.org. There is also more information about camp (by the by, it is free!) there!
After hearing all of the wonderful things about camp I still had apprehensions about going somewhere where I did not know anybody. My self-esteem was not the best, and felt there would be a room full of people to single me out to make fun of. Bobby Jo had been to summer camp several times. Knowing her really made all the decision easier for me to go. We would write back and forth, and she would share of her fun times there. Not only did I know that she would be there, but my friend Kari agreed to go as my counselor! Kari was also in the same business class as my brother, and wanted to go to camp before she knew about me. There would be too familiar faces there for me so my nerves grew calm, and now excited to go!
Because I did not own a wheelchair at the time David D. called on me to borrow one while at camp. I was not sure I was ever going to use it that week, but Bobby Jo and David D. kept telling me that the walking distances were far, and it would be good to have one around just in case. I was stubborn though, but agreed he could bring it. About two days before Kari and I were to get on the bus to go to camp I stubbed my big toe. This was a regular occurrence when I would walk without shoes. That was my stubborn streak yet again, because I knew better! Now every time I would step on that foot I would be in pain, and it through my balance off even more because I would try to use that foot less than the other. I began to cry and wonder about even going, but Kari gave me a pep talk and off we went.
The actual camp site in Oklahoma was about two hours from where I lived. So everyone that lived by me also took the bus. That was quite the experience for me. Majority of the campers who were going on the bus used wheelchairs. I was taken back and suddenly did not feel different. Everyone was very nice so far, and I was excited to see what was to come.
When we got to camp we met up with the other people from Oklahoma who were already there. We got settled in to our cabin. I was in a room with Bobby Jo as we had planned. Everyone met up at the mess hall. The first thing we did was to have a hug-a-thon. This is where everyone just hugs everyone. I was not a very affectionate person at that time so I was just kind of staying to myself. This counselor named Jason came over to me and gave me the biggest hug, and told me how glad he was that I came. I was so incredibly speechless. Not only was he a guy, but he was a cute guy! This just doesn't happen to me ever. From that point on I was the most affectionate person! LOL. Just kidding. We all went into the next room for dinner. I caught myself staring at this guy while he ate. He did not have any arms and was in a wheelchair. His counselor was feeding him. They were both laughing and having a good time. At that moment I thought to myself, "What the heck am I griping for?” He had to deal with so many more obstacles than I did, but yet he was still happy. I definitely reevaluated myself at that moment. After dinner we had a meet and greet party. When we returned back to the cabin for the evening I took off my sock and my toe was black and blue. It was a relief for my toe, and it was then I realized that David D. and Bobby Jo were right. So I swallowed my pride, and used the wheelchair when getting place to place after that. That was a huge deal for me and felt like I was giving up in a since. My stubborn mind was not focusing on the fact that it was safer for me, and would give me more energy to focus on having a good time. I later did realize that, but was not a happy camper!! Every year there is a theme for camp. This year it was called "making the difference" and one evening we all watched that movie "The Wiz" with Michael Jackson. This was when he was actually black! I even got an award for having the best Dorothy hairdo at the Talent Show! Throughout the week I learned how to laugh, give warm fuzzies (complements), to look at myself in a different light and realize that differences aren't always bad, to have confidence in being me, to have more of an open mind, and tons of camp songs. There was not one thing we did during that week that I could not participate in. What a feeling! Not only did I get to know Bobby Jo better, but there were tons of folks that I could relate to. I felt like I was one of the majority instead of being one of the minority. Near the end of the week we had a dance. It was so much fun to let loose and not worry about dancing with my two left feet! I had my very first slow dance with a boy! This was very different than the broomstick I was used to at home, LOL! We danced to the Richard Marx song "Right Here Waiting." Could I have a moment so that I could reflect on that one, LOL! On the last day everyone was filled with the emotions of leaving. We all took time to sign annuals, take pictures, and give many hugs. I had promised to stay in touch with everyone. I never thought I could have had this much fun, and have met as so many wonderful people. I left with anticipation of going back the next year.
My life was forever changed by this. I ended up going to camp for five more great summers. I will talk about them in a future post for I have rambled on long enough about my first summer at camp. Truly, there is not enough room to say what I want to say. Blogger would give me the boot if I tried!
I would love to hear about your camp stories? Thank you for taking the time to read,