I am quite happy to say that I have survived yet another Michigan winter. This winter was by far the worst in my memory, and I hope that it remains the worst that I will see in my lifetime. For now though, the snow is a distant memory and I am now looking ahead to another Michigan summer. When I think about summer, a lot of great memories come to mind; boating with my family, swimming with my sisters in the backyard pool, running around the neighborhood until the street lights came on and of course, summer camp.
Summer camp started off as a rocky experience for me. First, there was the fifth grade class camping trip where I was sent home early because the staff didn’t know how to handle my disability with the activities. Then, there was the time in seventh grade when I went to camp with a good friend. I was again excluded from several activities because of my Cerebral Palsy, plus reprimanded when I slept during free period because I was so exhausted from trying to keep up with the other kids. Luckily, both of those experiences ended on a happy note thanks to supportive friends and family; but it hadn’t left me eager to try summer camp again.
When I moved in with my dad in High School, I was once again faced with the prospect of summer camp. My Step-Mom insisted that my twin and I were both going, and there was really no arguing with my Step-Mom. She had been one of my biggest supporters during the 5th grade camp fiasco, so she had found a camp that was exclusively for people with physical disabilities. I would attend this camp for two weeks; I can’t say I was especially excited about the idea. I had been to similar camps before, usually the activities were geared toward kids much younger than myself and I had felt babied.
As it turned out, going to Indian Trails Camp was one of the best experiences of my life. The activities I was left out of at other camps, like archery, swimming and rope courses, were all adapted so that every camper was included. The beds and showers were accessible, the staff was mostly made up of first or second year college students, and they treated us like friends instead of clients.
Indian Trails Camp changed my life. It gave me the confidence to be just me and to embrace my disability, instead of trying to overcome it. It taught me how to adapt things to fit my needs and that with a few adjustment I could accomplish anything. Indian Trails Camp is where I had my first kiss and met my first boyfriend. It is where I made lifelong friends. It is where I found acceptance and inclusion for the first time.
I know sometimes difficult experiences can turn us off to new things; but if you are from Michigan, have a disability and you’ve never gotten to experience summer camp, I encourage you to give Indian Trails Camp a try. It is never too late; there is even a camp for adults. Give yourself or your child a summer they will never forget.