June is approaching, and I’m already greatly anticipating the annual use of my netlogx Day of Service. This awesome benefit gives us one full paid day a year to use for an act of service within our community.
Every year except one since 2011 I have spent a week in June as an “other” at CHAMP Camp. This is a magical camp where kids with severe respiratory disorders get a true camp experience. 90% of the counselors are medical professionals or medical students, and I help make up the 10% of “others” who jump in and help as needed. To provide the advanced medical care required the camp has an astounding upside down ratio of 2.75 counselors for every camper (contrast that to a “standard” camp that will have one counselor for 10-15 campers!)
Most of the kids are on respirators or have tracheostomies. More than half are wheelchair bound with a few paraplegics and quadriplegics. At camp they get to do things like ride a zip line, climb to the top of a climbing tower, and swim in a pool. It should be noted that these kids are taught to greatly fear water because it is such a threat to their weakened breathing system, but at CHAMP Camp they experience swimming with unequalled joy! The camp activities are specially designed and geared to kids with handicaps, so even those completely wheelchair bound can be hoisted to the top of the climbing tower or ride the zipline in specialized equipment.
The camp has an added place in my heart for the year it helped me. In 2013 while waiting for the kids to arrive, I suffered a mild heart attack. What better place to have one than a camp staffed by medical professionals! Although my symptoms and after effects were mild, they encouraged me to get checked at the hospital. Dr. Chuck drove me there and cracked jokes the whole way. I ended up missing camp that year and underwent a quadruple bypass a week later. I received the most awesome “Get Well” banner signed by the campers and counselors. Fearful that they wouldn’t want me back the next year I put on my application, “Will you take me back if I promise to NOT have a heart attack?” I’m happy to say they welcomed me with open arms!
I lead leather crafts for the children, and have been a cabin leader for a couple of years now. The kids are amazing with their will and spirit to stay positive and enjoy life in spite of incredibly debilitating medical conditions. The medical counselors are inspiring for their selfless dedication and incredible care they provide to these special kids.
So once again in my life I sign up for an activity “to be a blessing to others” and in the end discover I have been richly blessed. This camp is the highlight of the year for the 30 kids we are able to take in, and it is also the highlight of mine…