During each summer starting in June and ending in early August I work at a camp for individuals with special needs of all ages. This upcoming summer will be my fourth summer working there and let me tell you, it has been such a learning experience and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Every day camp starts at 9 am and ends at 3 pm and every single day I work there I really feel like I am a part of a family. Not only do I love our campers but the people who I work with who I believe are very special, talented, and compassionate individuals in which I have awesome relationships with. I remember my first summer I was super nervous and anxious to start having no clue who I would be working with. But the awesome thing is that all of us staff spend a whole week together (aka training week) and play a bunch of awesome icebreaker games and participate in various activities to get to know each other while also learning about our campers and the camp’s rules and regulations. This was something that definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable while I was still getting to know everyone. So training week is always
a good time to get to know the new staff and even if you already know each other, to catch up and talk about the crazy/funny stories about previous summers which are always a good time.
Now let me talk a little more about the campers we have. Oh, man, are they characters, but with the biggest hearts in the world filled with gold. They are the main reason why I come home from camp smiling and laughing about what happened during camp that day. Of course working with individuals with special needs is definitely a challenging task that involves much patience and understanding of one's feelings and needs. But also it’s just like any job, not every day is going to be a good day. Someone might have a huge meltdown that may trigger other campers to also have a behavioral problem but that's the art of the job. We
are here to help them and to always adapt to unexpected situations and circumstances that may happen during the day. As stressful as it is sometimes, we are the reason why these kids are looking forward to camp every day and are going home smiling. And even if we do have a bad day, most of the time we always look back on the events that occurred and end up laughing about them but even more importantly, we learn from them. Of course they can be little rascals at times but of course, we still love them to death. They are all awesome kids and each of them have a huge personality and let me tell you does it shine that much brighter at camp.
The love you receive from individuals with special needs is the most sincere love you will ever experience. Individuals with special needs don’t need something from you to love you. They just choose to and it’s an unconditional type of love.
They don’t care about your mistakes or your past, and they don't judge you based on that. That's the beauty. As long as you treat them with kindness and respect it’s truly an amazing thing what you will receive back from just doing that. A camp with individuals with special needs is not just another ordinary camp, it’s a special camp with bright individuals who all have something to give. And most importantly, they all have the absolute biggest hearts filled with gold. As I grew up, I became aware that there are people with special needs out there, and I have a real connection with them.
With all of this being said, I advise you to go spend time with an individual with special
needs and really get to know them. The endless life lessons and smiles you will receive from them is powerful beyond measure. Allow yourself to be moved, changed, challenged, expand your curiosity, and at the same time becoming a better person by seeing their world through the eyes of possibility. Life is a beautiful thing and if you want to know how beautiful it truly is, step into their world for a day. You won’t regret it for a minute, I can promise you that.
P.S. Shoutout to the best staff in the world for all helping each other out during each Summer. You guys are so awesome and have a special place in my heart. I truly appreciate having all of you in my life. You guys rock!
I am going to end this article with one of my absolute favorite quotes...