Have you ever been to a place that brings you so much joy, you find it hard to believe it’s real? You know, the feeling you get when you open the gift you wanted the most under the Christmas tree? Or the feeling you get when someone tells you they’re proud of you? This is the feeling I get each time I attend Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Summer Camp each year.
Since I was sixteen years old, I have been volunteering for this absolutely mountain-moving organization. MDA is a company derived towards finding a cure to Muscular Dystrophy, and doing everything in their power to make the best lives possible for those who are diagnosed with the condition. Summer camp is the best example I could possibly use to explain this concept.
Every year, campers and volunteers from all over Michigan, count down the days until they can be back at Camp Cavell in Lexington, MI, where MDA Summer Camp takes place. The vibes given at this camp are overwhelmingly positive and contagious. It is so amazing; the things these kids are able to do throughout this week. Have you ever imagined a child who is wheelchair-bound for the rest of their life, climb a tree 40 feet in the air? Or ride a horse? Or play hockey? Or go swimming? Or ride a motorcycle? MDA camp makes the impossible possible. The inclusion, diversity, and acceptance this place gives is incredible. There are simply no words to describe it.
The way camp works is that each camper, who has muscular dystrophy, is paired with an attendant, who is a volunteer. Depending on the severity of the camper’s condition, some campers may even have two attendants. Regardless, they all get to spend the week together exploring, adventuring, and having the full-on summer camp experience. Campers can begin coming to camp at age six, and can continue to come back each year until the summer going into their senior year, where they “graduate” from camp. Those who are aged 6-11 are housed in the Southwood cabins with their attendants and house parents for the week, whereas those aged 12-17 are housed in Northwood cabins with their attendants and house parents. Once the camper reaches their graduation status, they are given a celebratory ceremony full of videos of advice and memories from these campers that usually ends in tears.
This year, I was given a camper named Brady. Brady is nine years old and has myotonic muscular dystrophy. He is also the best singer/dancer I have ever met! His obsession with Michael Jackson is uncanny, yet adorable. Brady and I spent our week in cabin S2 (Southwood) with three other little boys; Mario, Gavin and Hunter. While each camper has their own medications, and daily routines, they unite as best friends by the end of the week. Being able to include myself in this process was truly honoring.
While at camp there are so many awesome activities to participate in, no matter what your likes or dislikes may be; there is something for everyone! From the constant arts and crafts, to the open leggo table, MDA’s activity staff truly does go above beyond to entertain all. Kareoke, lip-sync battles, singing songs during meals, getting ice cream, getting temporary tattoos and piercings, watching “french” chefs on the beach, or even blowing bubbles to pass the time is just as fulfilling as the main events within the week.
As mentioned earlier, camp is pretty hard to put into my own words, but pictures say a thousand. That being said, I have created a video to help you visualize all of the amazing things these kids get to do throughout the week and all of the fun we have doing them! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P04uN-PH0t8