As I sit here staring at my computer screen, my mind begins to flood with all of the vivid memories, raw emotions, and empowering experiences that I shared with the 45 other ASBers on our trip to Camp Summit in Argyle, Texas. Words cannot even begin to describe this incredible trip, but I will do the best I can in this blog!
We arrived at Camp Summit early Saturday morning and were more than excited to get our day started (part of that excitement came from getting off the bus we were on for 14 hours). After leaving the bus and getting our luggage, we got settled in our cabins, which housed about six counselors and eight campers. For the rest of the day, and majority of Sunday, we went through orientations and introductions to the camp. Everything we learned seemed easy enough to do… Little did we know…
After ending our final orientations on Sunday, we started preparing for our campers! Each camp was given a “cheat sheet” that described our camper’s disabilities, incentives, and what they needed assistance with. My cabin had girls aged 14-22 with disabilities that included Down’s Syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, profound cognitive and developmental disabilities, attention deficit/ hyperactive disorder, cerebral palsy, and Angelman syndrome. Nearly everyone needed assistance showering and changing/putting on clothes, four campers needed complete assistance using the bathroom (three used depends), two needed complete assistance eating, and every one of us were prepared to have a great time at Camp Summit. The campers came in starting at 4:00pm that day, which also marked the beginning of an incredible week for me.
Our regular day schedule looked like this:
The 7:00AM wakeup call did not get easier as the week went on.
The activities we did were always pretty fun and different. We did horseback riding, a ropes course, fishing, arts and crafts, we had a dance at the end of the week, we did scavenger hunts, had a carnival night, and dressed up in costumes. Early in the week, our cabin was paired with a boys cabin (wink, wink) which was very exciting for the majority of our girls. They claimed boyfriends pretty quickly.
What this daily schedule does not include was how often we needed to tend to our girl’s needs, we were responsible for 24/7 care. Making sure everyone had clean depends, keeping schedule of who had bowel movements, always making sure no one was missing, and staying enthusiastic so our campers were enthusiastic proved to be very exhausting. My cabin also used our rest time as a time to shower and bathe the majority of our campers; this simplified their nighttime routine. After showers, some of our campers took naps and others colored or did sidewalk chalk with me and the other counselors. We also had some campers that had difficulty sleeping in the evening, which meant the counselors would not be sleeping either.
Although the 7:00AM wakeup call did not get easier, our days certainly did. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of the counselors of Kiowa cabin. We worked together cohesively, and were able to overcome difficult obstacles (for example: our cabin supervisor was fired halfway through the week). This was also a very selfless and altruistic experience for everyone on this trip. Our campers were our first concern and I was entirely immersed in their needs.
This was a truly amazing experience and I believe myself and the 45 other people on this trip have had our lives touched and changed by the amazing campers we were so privileged to meet. They will be remembered because of what wonderful people they are, not by their disability. I will miss my campers, Sydney, Carrie, Sarah, Abby, Paige, Sydney, Annie, and Madi.