So it has officially been forever… better late than never, right?
I was writing a college English essay, the assignment was a profile on a place… Writing about Camp blessing reminded me that I did indeed forget to tell you guys all about it… so this is basically the essay I wrote with pictures and more stuff added in.
I usually don’t write blogs this long, but Camp Blessing is such a worth while program that I think it’s worth it! Here goes nothing:
Deep in the piney woods of East Texas there is a magical place. It isn’t the kind of magic you would find in Narnia or at Hogwarts, but it is magic just the same. Every summer hundreds of special needs children and volunteers travel from all over Texas to Camp Blessing. It is place where wheelchairs and impairments can’t stop anyone from getting the experience of a lifetime, in a safe and accepting environment. Camp Blessing Texas allows these kids to do things they’d never imagine possible and experience God in a whole new light. It is truly a magical place.
Camp Blessing is one of few summer camps in Texas that caters exclusively to children and young adults with special needs. Siblings who do not have special needs are also allowed to be a camper for a week to give them some time away from caring for their brother or sister. The children have different disabilities, ranging from Down Syndrome or Autism to Cerebral Palsy, to other disabling conditions. No one at this camp feels left out, each and every child is loved and accepted… and for kids who tend to spend their whole lives on the outside looking in, acceptance and inclusion is a wonderful feeling.
Safety is a big concern at Camp Blessing. With so many possible medical complications and physical activities, safety is a number one priority. Several nurses and nearly a dozen medical students joined us the week I volunteered. They were the camp saviors; they were never found sitting still. Someone always needed medicine, an inhaler or a Band-Aid. They weren’t the only ones keeping kids safe though. The kitchen staff catered to each and every special diet, gluten-free, peanut allergies, any curve ball you could throw their way. All the volunteers arrived a day early for orientation and training. We learned how to deal with the different complications that might arise, like seizures or temper tantrums.
Orientation was probably one of the scariest parts of Camp Blessing, not because the staff were “trying” to scare you… but because if you’re me medical stuff freaks you out and you automatically assume that someone could die under your care.
We then headed off to our cabins, this is where we realized our whole group would be separated out. We all looked at each other with the slight note of terror in our eyes… They were gonna stick us in cabins with a a bunch of strangers alone!? Say what? My sister and I hadn’t planned for that. One of us had sunscreen, the other one had Off! At least I had the hairbrush. Next time we def need to bring seperate supplies… So we can both be sunburn and bugbite free.
The camp officially started with the kids getting dropped off red carpet style, and running down a ramp full of applauding counselors and workers. After being scared out of my mind in orientation, the excited smiles on kid’s faces was the perfect way to set the tone for the coming week.
That’s when I met my camper Courtney; I almost lost her, she darted down the ramp so fast! Courtney was Autistic, ADHD, and obsessed with Tinkerbell. If I ever lost her attention we talked Tinkerbell. I learned more about Tinkerbell that week than I will probably ever need to know, but I had a blast. Courtney was very passionate in everything she did. Most of the staff remembered her from the previous year, but it didn’t matter if she remembered them or not because everyone–stranger and friend alike–got a very enthusiastic Courtney hug. On a scale I’d place Courtney somewhere between bear hug and NFL linebacker.
The activities were where the real fun began! What camp would be complete without archery and horseback riding? Not this one! No one had to miss out on anything. Even kids in wheelchairs were able to enjoy everything! Zip-line included! There are so few places that cater to these kid’s needs. I will never forget excitement of seeing them conquer a fear and go zip lining, or on a horse, or in a canoe. Every night was a literally a party at Camp Blessing. Courtney’s favorite had to have been the dance party. I don’t think she stood still for more than ten seconds that whole night, which in turn meant I didn’t either. Talk about exhaustion.
After parties though, things got taken down a notch. We would have church service and worship. Worship was probably what impacted me the most during this week. Seeing kids with disabilities or in wheel chairs giving all they had to praise God really touched my heart. At home I’d throw myself a pity party for forgetting to record The Bachelorette amazed me. But knowing that kids who can’t even walk still find it in their hearts to praise the Lord was remarkable.
Life as a counselor wasn’t always a walk in the park. In fact, it almost never was. For the entire week you spend at Camp Blessing you essentially become the guardian of your camper. You make sure they get showered and tucked into bed before you take your own shower. You make sure they have their food before you get your own. They always come first.
I think that’s the whole point of Camp Blessing, serving others. All the counselors were not called “counselors,” we were called “SOTK’s” which stood for Servant of the King. The first day you put your camp shirt on, and think nothing of it. The last day you put it on it has suddenly found meaning, you suddenly understand. You spent the week serving. Our whole lives, especially as teenagers, are spent thinking in terms of “me” or “I”. One week at Camp Blessing broadens your horizons so much. One week at Camp Blessing reminds you there’s a whole world outside of yourself, and that world needs you.
Campers get to come to camp blessing and experience unlimited supplies love and acceptance, something the “special kids” seldom seem to receive in the “real world”. But campers aren’t the only ones who get something out of Camp Blessing.
After one week, counselors may really miss their own showers and beds. I could also admit to being both physically and mentally exhausted, but for the first time in my life I actually knew what it meant to serve others. I actually felt what it was to worship and thank God through all things. That’s the true magic of Camp Blessing. A week there affects everyone personally and deeply. You can’t leave the same person you came, and why would you want to?
Sorry if this sounded super formal, it was originally an English assignment after all. Hope you enjoyed it! If you feel lead to, check out their website!