So I started off strong with this whole blogging thing, and then I remembered why I had avoided blogging for so long. It’s really hard to consistently involve yourself in things worth writing about and posting on the Internet. My favorite literature teacher in high school, Mr. Roger Bailey, always told me I had the perfect name for a writer. So hey, Mr. Bailey, if you’re reading this, I’m just trying to do your assumption justice!
The last four weeks in a nutshell–my family came to Connecticut, so now I have all my stuff. I’ve arranged my movies alphabetically, sorted my bowls in rainbow order, attempted to decorate, and my apartment is starting to feel like home. My job is still incredible. I’m done with shadowing and orientation, so I have my very own Barney Bag full of the projects and games I do with kids in the hospital. (Look forward to future posts of successes and failures in that department!) And Louisville won the National Championship. RIP Kevin Ware’s shin.
This past weekend I had my first overnight experience on Camp. I’m so lucky that my job affords me the opportunity to experience Camp during weekends throughout the year and sessions during the summer. It definitely helps to connect those experiences back to my work in the hospital, and I’m so grateful for every second I get to spend at what is so quickly becoming my favorite place on Earth.
I went into this weekend fired up for my first real Camp experience. But, right before dinner on Friday night, I received the tragic news that a camper from my previous job at ESP had unexpectedly passed away. Bekkah was one of those campers that could honestly turn my frown upside down just by walking into the room. She didn’t always need words to express herself, and she had a bear hug that could take your breath away, but her strength was far more than physical. She had a presence and a desire to live life with immeasurable joy. In the several minutes it took for the reality of her death to set in, I grieved for her family and for her friends at ESP knowing this summer at camp would not be the same without her.
Faced with this tragedy, I realized there was no place I would have rather been to process those feelings than Camp. ESP was a place where Bekkah thrived, had friends and felt accepted, and I had the opportunity to be a part of something like that last weekend. Camp was hosting it’s inaugural Alumni Weekend, inviting back campers who had aged out of the summer camp programs and were revisiting their Camp experience for the first time in upwards of 10 years. It was such a unique weekend to be a part of, but so cool to experience the impact Camp has had on so many young people. Because of their illnesses, many of these now young adults were socially isolated, and Camp was the only place they felt accepted for exactly who they were (still are). This weekend was like a reunion of sorts, but also a time where they could remember and embrace that feeling of acceptance.
Leaving ESP was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but it’s so special for me to feel connected to where I came from by instilling the same philosophies of acceptance and love at Camp now. My former boss always told me that we weren’t put here for individuals with disabilities; they were put here for us. They remind us that being different is not just okay, but something to embrace and be proud of. I know Camp isn’t for me, but looking back, I needed this weekend almost as much as the campers. It was therapeutic to say the least, not only to be a part of such an amazing time with these young adults, but to remember Bekkah and the spirit of joy she brought to my life.