By Heather Ott, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
As a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, I encourage our patients and families to attend summer camp. When I learned that Gillette (a camp supporter and sponsor), had an opportunity for me to attend MDA Camp as a volunteer, I quickly jumped at the chance. The MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) supports kids and families living with neuromuscular diseases such as Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy, and spinal muscular atrophy. MDA Camp gives kids with neuromuscular conditions an opportunity to spend a week participating in a wide variety of activities like horseback riding, swimming, and adaptive sports.
On the morning of camp I found myself becoming nervous, wondering what I should wear, what we would we be doing, and even, should I bring sunscreen? As I was thinking about this, I realized this must be what all first-time campers must be wondering! So, after packing extra clothes and sunscreen, I was ready for whatever MDA camp would throw at me.
As I was driving into camp, the land around me was beautiful—everything was green and the sun was shining. As the road wound in I saw the sign that said “MDA Camp” and I instantly became excited. I was met by Kristina, who gave me a nametag and assigned me to a bunk. She told me to walk down the hill to meet my group, “the Rotary bunk”.
What I encountered was wonderful—just kids being kids! I saw kids chasing each other in power wheelchairs through the grass, kids at tables working on creative projects, and kids in large groups laughing together. It was striking to see the campers moving around, all of them wearing their blue Gillette drawstring bags. It made me feel proud that Gillette helps to support such an amazing community program.
As I walked towards my group, I became nervous. I was supposed to play a game with my new bunkmates. I was to ask them questions to figure out what animal name I had been assigned during check-in. Fortunately, my bunkmates were skilled in giving clues, even if I wasn’t asking the right questions and my animal was quickly identified. Then, everyone in my bunk introduced themselves. I explained that I worked for the place on the blue bags, and several girls in my bunk said they were Gillette patients!
Soon, it was time for root beer floats and water fun. As everyone quickly ate their treats, I asked the counselors how they got involved with the camp. Most were college students and some were professionals from the health field, but everyone I spoke with was retuning for their second or fourth year!
The highlight of the day was the firemen bringing out a huge hose, creating a waterfall over a path on the steamy day (pictured right). Whether campers used AFOs, power or manual wheelchairs, as they raced back and forth the roar of laughter sounded the same by all after being sprayed with the cold water. No one sat out. No one was unable to access the area. All the barriers melted away.
At the end of the day, I took a tour of the camp. Not only was the camp accessible in almost every area, it was also had a basketball court and was located on a lake. It was amazing to see a camp so accessible for campers to participate no matter the ability level. I am so grateful for the day I got to spend with these kids at THEIR camp!