summer camp

I was around 11 years old the first time I attended summer camp.  I remember thinking it was a long drive to get there but once we arrived I wished it could have been a bit longer. Spending two weeks alone with strangers seemed scary.

Easter Seals had two camps in Wisconsin when I was a kid. Camp Wawbeek and Camp Pioneer. {I went to the website and things have now changed. I’m going to stick with referring to what it was back in the day}

I found that Camp Wawbeek offered a lot of assistance and the majority of campers were in wheelchairs. We stayed in one huge dorm with beds lining the walls and the center was kept open for chairs to get through. I enjoyed my time at Camp Wawbeek but did not feel like I fit in. I was young and use to being surrounded by my “normal” friends.  It sounds awful but I felt like I was not disabled enough to “belong” and wanted a more challenging environment.

The next year I went to Camp Pioneer. I loved that it was more rugged.  There were several cabins and we were divided by age and gender. We did amazing things that I would have never done in the real world. 

Hoisted up trees to experience the thrill of a zip line course. Camped in the woods with nothing but our sleeping bags and the stars above. Went into town as a group to see the 4th of July fireworks. Canoed to an island and spent the day swimming. Fished. Sang songs around campfires. Water balloon fights. Arts and crafts. Movie nights. Hiking (on smooth easy trails). Ropes courses. Going to attractions in Wisconsin Dells.

It was so good for me to be thrown into a sea of strangers. I had to make new friends. Learn how to ask for help and not have the comfort of my parents ready to swoop in and save me.

I made great friends who became my penpals throughout the year until we met again at camp.  If only we would have had Facebook it would have been so much easier. I can’t imagine writing a letter, buying stamps and walking to the mailbox now.  Ridiculous!

Every year camp wrapped up the season with a fancy dinner and dance. It was the highlight of the two weeks and everyone loved that night. Usually by then all of us girls had found some boy we liked and we would pester them at the dance.

I always crushed on the camp counselors. They were older and from other countries {Poor Vlad from Russia, I probably stalked him}. The foreign accents were the key my heart. *eye roll 

Camp allowed us kids a chance to grow and make friends with other kids who had disabilities. For two weeks we were the normal ones.  It also gave the parents a much needed break from raising a child with special needs and provided a chance for some quality time with their other children who may have felt overshadowed by the attention their special needs sibling often required.

Now that I’m a mom, the thought of my son going to summer camp sounds pretty good.  Quiet house. Me time. Sleeping in on the weekend. Well, that is after I let myself have a good cry on the ride home after dropping him off.  🙂

For more information please visit:  http://camp.eastersealswisconsin.com

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