Editor’s Note: Our Faces of Carson feature shares experiences from the perspective of Behavioral Health Network’s caregivers and program directors in helping individuals and families in our community.
WESTFIELD – Alex has had quite a journey over her several years attending Kamp for Kids™. During her first year, her cerebral palsy kept her in a wheelchair for most of her time at Kamp. With the assistance of Kamp staff, Alex could walk a small portion of the Nature Trail, but she dreamed of one day making it all the way around the trail, even the parts unnavigable by her wheelchair.
A year later, Alex told her counselor about her wish. Together, they constructed a reasonable goal for Alex; by the end of her two sessions at Kamp for Kids, she would traverse the shorter loop of the Nature Trail without her wheelchair. Some days, Alex doubted herself. It was heartbreaking to hear Alex say that she knew she was different and that she didn’t think she would ever be able to walk the whole trail. Her counselor never quit on her, though. With the
staff’s help, Alex’s persistence won. She started the trail each day by walking with her group as far as she could. By the end of her first session, she completed the short loop. Alex was inspired by her own success and set her sights higher for her second session. Within days of first completing the smaller loop, Alex achieved her ultimate goal of walking the full Nature Trail by herself. The trail left her exhausted, but eager to tell anyone who would listen about what she had accomplished and how proud she was.
The next year, returning staff members were excited to see Alex arriving on the morning bus. As the van’s side door opened, Alex stood from her bus seat and walked onto the lift.
Thinking she was just eager to start her day at Kamp, her counselor suggested that they wait for her wheelchair. “I don’t have it!” she exclaimed. The bus driver confirmed that Alex’s mother wasn’t sending her wheelchair to Kamp, as she wouldn’t be needing it. Kamp staff were amazed at the progress Alex had made during the school year, but not surprised. They knew that Alex liked to set lofty goals, and worked hard to make sure she achieved them.
Located at Camp Togowauk in Westfield, BHN The Carson Center’s Kamp for Kids™ offers children and young adults – both with and without disabilities – an opportunity to experience growth, inclusion and fun in a summer camp setting. Kamp’s focus is on personal achievement and building friendships, while having fun in a safe, non-competitive environment. Founded over 40 years ago by Judy Hoyt as the first and only camp of its kind in the region, Kamp has served more than 6,000 youth from various backgrounds.