Mackenzie’s Life-Changing Experience at Camp Woodeden
Summer camp is a rite of passage for many kids, but for those with disabilities, it can be difficult to find a place that offers both safety and independence. However, for Mackenzie, Camp Woodeden has been a life-changing experience that she has enjoyed since the age of four. Mackenzie, who has used a wheelchair since she was 18 months old, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) as a young child. “I was fine after birth until I was about two weeks old. And then I had a cyst that burst on my lungs, which caused a lack of oxygen to my brain. And they diagnosed it as CP even though it wasn’t a definite diagnosis, because I presented as someone with CP,” she shared.
“It’s just life changing every time I go, because I just turn around and I meet someone new, or multiple new people, and I learn something new about life. I would have to say my favourite part is just the people. They’re all unique and amazing in their own way. And it’s such a vibrant and inspiring environment. And I wish everyone got to experience it.”
For Mackenzie, the best part of summer camp is the independence she gets to enjoy in a safe and positive environment. From rock climbing to archery, she is allowed to explore new experiences and take risks in a way that is not always possible in her everyday life. But what truly sets Camp Woodeden apart is the sense of community and understanding that comes with being surrounded by others who share similar limitations. “It’s just life changing every time I go, because I just turn around and I meet someone new, or multiple new people, and I learn something new about life. I would have to say my favourite part is just the people. They’re all unique and amazing in their own way. And it’s such a vibrant and inspiring environment. And I wish everyone got to experience it,” she shared.
As a person with cerebral palsy, Mackenzie knows firsthand the challenges of living with a disability. However, at camp, she is able to connect with others who understand what she’s going through and don’t judge her for her limitations. It’s a place where miracles happen, and where she has formed lifelong friendships with both fellow campers and counselors. “There’s something about being independent in an environment where there’s so many people that understand what you’re going through. It’s just like a whole other level of connecting with people. There’s an unspoken understanding of what your limitations are, and you’re not judged for them and you’re not singled out. You’re all the same in this community, in this environment, so it makes me quite emotional, to be honest. Because it’s just, it’s a place where miracles happen,” she shared.
You can help spread joy and smiles this summer by giving more kids the opportunity to attend Easter Seals camp.
For Mackenzie, camp is a place where she can participate in activities like sailing and kayaking that she might not be able to do otherwise. “When you’re there, they encourage you to do things that are out of your norm and push you to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. And that is one of my absolute favourite parts because I’m a big risk taker, but I don’t really have a lot of areas in my life where it’s safe to take those risks. Because it’s a very safe environment, I’m allowed to go crazy with what I decide to do from rock climbing to archery. It’s really amazing,” she shared. For Mackenzie, an especially meaningful memory is her experience with the adaptive bikes that she had the opportunity to ride at camp. She shared, “I wouldn’t change that experience for the world. It was amazing. My grandfather passed away when I was 14. And one of the last conversations we had was after my knee surgery, and he said, when I’m ready to get back on my bike, he would be right there with me, and I never got the opportunity, so it was very emotional.” Mackenzie’s ride on the adaptive bike at Easter Seals’ camp was not only a joyful and liberating experience for her, but it also felt like a special way for her to honour her grandfather’s memory.
“There’s something about being independent in an environment where there’s so many people that understand what you’re going through. It’s just like a whole other level of connecting with people. There’s an unspoken understanding of what your limitations are, and you’re not judged for them and you’re not singled out.”
Mackenzie’s story is a reminder that summer camp can be a life-changing experience for kids with disabilities. It’s a place where they can connect with others who understand their struggles and where they can learn to push themselves in a safe and supportive environment. Mackenzie feels extremely thankful for the donors who have made it possible for Camp Woodeden to exist. “Thank you for everything that you all have done to make this possible because camp has been a vital component in making me who I am today,” she shared. “Camp has shown me a lot about not only myself and my disability, but other people. It’s taught me to be gentle with myself and give myself a little grace every now and then. And I thank you for all that you do. Know that not one penny goes unnoticed. And every contribution you make puts a smile on a child’s face and it does not go unnoticed. So just know that you’re changing lives, whether you see it firsthand or not. And I can say from personal experience that we are all so thankful for your help and your contributions. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible. So thank you for everything and I hope that one day you can make it down to Camp Woodeden to see us and the smiles firsthand.”