A Volunteers Journal Day 2: Meeting the Campers!

Welcome to our first ever Camp Blue Skies mini-series. Thought you would enjoy a play-by-play look at James Guimond's experience at our camp as a week-long volunteer. Please enjoy the second of five installments. Each one broken into bite size pieces so you can savor every detail. Day 2 Sunday Camp Theme of the Day: “Try New Things”

The campers arrive today and some additional volunteers too, after breakfast a little more training and getting know each other in preparation to receive the campers. My team included myself Cabin Captain, Mike (experienced with this population), and Don as an additional counselor, both would show themselves to great teammates during the week, always ready to serve the campers no matter what. So grateful to have worked with both of them and have a deep respect for both men for their willingness to serve. We sat down for lunch and already campers began to arrive, we had to eat quickly so we could meet the families and campers. We escorted our campers to Cabin 10 and helped them unload their gear and select a bunk. Mike stayed in the cabin and Don greeted the families and campers while I escorted the campers to our cabin as they arrived.  I was worried as we all are sometimes when we encounter individuals with disability, we don’t know what to expect so we are anxious and may sometimes step back, this time we are going to step up to conquer our hesitation. And like most things in life once we do they are not nearly as worrisome as we think they are. The campers were just like you and me, the same wants and maybe a few more needs, but they just want to be accepted and loved for who they are. Well our job was to do just that for them all week, After all the campers arrived the camp was bustling with campers and families, laughing and getting to know each other with the excitement that comes at the beginning of new adventure that promises to be lots of fun.

nc dining hallWe had 7 campers in our cabin, all with their own unique story full of challenges, but for one week those would all be far away as we shared a week of camp together. We were the Orange team so we named ourselves the Orange Crush. Our first activity was free choice time so some were throwing the football, playing corn hole, or some other game, while others were in the great hall doing art or games. Right away I knew this was going to be challenging but special week, it was going to take patience and caring to help these campers have a great camp experience. The camp staff were so professional they made it look so easy, so prepared, from the logistics to the medical staff everything was first rate, and made our jobs so much easier. Looking around at the other experienced volunteers gave us new volunteers a great model to follow in dealing with the challenges of this population. My heart goes out to the families who have to be “ON” always to care for their family members with disabilities. There was one husband and wife team of Cabin Captains that were a great source of strength for me, they had been to all five previous camps and just jumped right in, every time I saw them they were fully engaged with their campers. The best way to learn something fast is watch a pro in action and they were flawless, they knew one thing crystal clear, make your campers feel like family. After free choice we were off to the Dude Ranch to check out the animals and paint our team flag.

After dinner we had a camp sing indoor as the weather was threatening, we heard a blue grass band play and ate smores prepared by the kitchen staff. Pretty good first day, with about an hour of cabin time it was lights out, I laid in bed thinking about the day still a little apprehensive but feeling a little better about being able to measure up. It was going to take a pretty focused effort to keep all the campers engaged and working together to give them the best experience possible. Not much sleep tonight, I did not want to have to explain to any family if something happened to their camper.

Cabin Captain for Cabin 10

James K. Guimond

Tune in next week to see what happens next in A Volunteer Journal Day 3: First Full Day of Activities and Skit Night!