To the campers who came here to enjoy a week away from home,
To the parents who had full (or almost full) faith that I could take care of their child.
Their special child.
Like all children, the ones who come to Rocky Mountain Village are creative, full of energy, and eager to have fun. Unlike other children, the ones who come here get to experience a week of full inclusion and be totally embraced for all their quirks and craziness, which may not happen on a daily basis anywhere else.
We’ve gotten through roughly two months of campers coming and going. Sunday mornings are filled with preparation and friday afternoons consist of cleaning the cabins, debriefing, and celebrating another week well done. It’s tiring. I’ve gotten less sleep than I could use but the busy pace makes it hard for exhaustion to set in. Everyday, every week is different than the last and last week I had the most influential camper. She has cerebral palsy, is blind, and, for the most part, nonverbal. She loved music of any kind, except I did find her reaction to country songs less than thrilled.
Throughout the week I sat with her through training sessions to help her learn how to work her Dynavox. We sat on her bed and cuddled before meal times, she wrapped her arm around me and I sang to her..whatever song just happened to be in my head. One day, while getting her dressed I told her to “lean on me” so she wouldn’t fall off of her bed. Immediately I thought of “lean on me…when you’re not strong…” so I started singing. She sat there, arm around me with her other hand grasping mine tight. She pounded my hand against her chest in perfect timing and had a smile bigger than I’ve ever seen. She rocked her head back and forth and shrieked with excitement when I substituted a word or two of the song with her name.
I’ve had many “moments” here at camp where I get overwhelmed by emotions. This lean on me moment topped them all. I was one hundred percent sure of what I am doing with my life in that brief time. I knew I was creating an immense joy for this little twelve year old girl but beyond that, I knew how great it felt to give that to someone. This may sound selfish but I think she gave me way more than I gave to her. When I would be dragging myself out of bed in the morning she would be sitting there hiding under her blankets cracking up hysterically. She couldn’t go to sleep on many nights because she was too busy laughing–what a terrible problem to have, right? She danced after meals, whenever she heard music, and sometimes, what seemed to me to be for no reason at all. She taught me to laugh at any moment possible. I only saw her get upset when I was brushing her teeth or doing her hair, but other than that she was a complete joy. She gave me joy in my third to last week here at camp.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget what it felt like to have her arm squeezing my neck as she sat on my lap and pat my back. Like she was comforting me and saying, “it’s all going to be okay.” Even though she can’t speak, we had great conversations. Even though she can’t see I know she felt my face and hair enough times to get a picture, however it is she pictures things in her mind.
I owe my summer to campers like her. The staff here is great and we’re all here for a summer to remember but apart from all of the off-time adventures I’ve had I will forever remember my campers. Each of them an individual. Each of them memorable for very different reasons. I am thankful through and through for the time I’ve spent in Colorado this summer. I wouldn’t of had it any other way.