I volunteered as an overnight counselor for Special Camps, a summer camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities, over the summer. My role as a counselor was to assist my campers in daily tasks as well as fun activities such as swimming, archery, sports, horseback riding, singing and dancing, and more.
My experience as a counselor for Special Camps has been incredibly impactful. I was immersed in an immense amount of love and positivity during the week I spent at camp. At the start, each counselor was assigned campers to lead. Although I may be biased, I believe I was assigned the best campers, Kelly and Stacy. My greatest memory was seeing Kelly’s pride after pushing her to conquer her fear of riding the horses. After 11 years of coming to camp, it was her first time doing so, and seeing her newfound confidence it showed me the ability I had to make an impact.
Meal time allowed for interaction with campers outside our groups. The appreciation that Connor, who was deaf and nonverbal, demonstrated at lunch when I asked him how to sign some of the items around us is something I will never forget, as well as my inspiration to begin learning ASL. I was shown in real time how much my friendship meant to someone, and was touched by the love I was shown.
I was overcome with awe when I saw the camper’s response to something I viewed as small. One day at lunch counselors dressed as superheroes, but it was not until I saw the tears forming in Olivia’s eyes after meeting Ms. Incredible that I understood how meaningful our actions were.
Seeing the impact I had on these camper is an unforgettable feeling. I saw the difference I was making and what my encouragement and friendship meant to another individual. Not only was I making a difference, but the campers also made an impression on me. They taught me to spread compassion and the importance of doing the small things, as one may never predict their effects. The campers also gave me the gift of unconditional love and friendship and for that, I am forever grateful. I am eager to see what camp next summer will bring.