It wasn’t going to be easy. Ten days is a long time. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to do it … and we weren’t even the ones going to camp! When our daughter Grace went to Easter Seals Camp for the first time – her first time away from home – it was a big deal … for us. She was very excited but a little anxious and we were very anxious and a little excited! This was a new chapter for our whole family as is any step into the unknown.
It was a beautiful sunny day when we pulled onto the property at Camp Merrywood and we were immediately met with enthusiastic and knowledgeable camp leaders who toured us around and introduced Grace to other campers and leaders. Soon however the time came for us to say goodbye. The time we dreaded – goodbyes are never easy – especially new goodbyes. We took deep breaths, told Gracie we would miss her like crazy and be praying for her each day, gave her a huge hug and quickly walked to the car – not because we wanted to leave but because we knew we had to. Our pace was fast and we dare not turn back, in fear that we would scoop her up and run back to the car with her.
The 10 days went by – slowly – and we were excited to pick her up and hear all about her adventure. When we saw her we ran to her as people who had been separated for months woud do! With an enthusiastic smile and a big hug – she asked – “Why are you crying Mom? I had an awesome time!” And there it was – our daughter had grown in 10 days, having gained a confidence that only a completed adventure can give.
She had enjoyed swimming, boating, laughing, playing, singing and dancing and learning that she had it in her to accomplish what she puts her mind to. And as parents – we learned that too. That first year began five years in a row of attending Easter Seals camp – and each one bringing with it a new sense of growth and success for Grace and for us as her parents.
Sending your child away to camp can bring about feelings of fear, apprehension, walking into the unknown that which we as parents had tried to avoid for so long. Having a child with a disability makes this journey even more worrisome; will she be cared for properly, will she have her personal care needs met, will she fit in? These fears quickly became non issues as we realized the deep care and concern that the staff and leaders at each camp had for each camper. They were there to provide for Grace’s needs, support her personal care issues and ensure that she not only fit in but that she grew in her interpersonal skills and strengthened her advocacy skills that we had been working so hard to develop as parents.
An adventure at Easter Seals camp may only last 10 days but the experiences, skills learned and impact are priceless!
~ Lesley & Dean, Grace’s parents