This past weekend, Easter Seals Grater Houston held its third installment of our teen camp, Camp MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) with the help of Randalls Food Market, The Avril Lavigne Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston. It has been such an incredible experience to be a part of the birth of this new opportunity for teenagers. Some of the campers who have attended one of the weekend retreats had been removed from the camp scene for a few years since their graduation from Camp Smiles (our week-long overnight camp) at age 14, so they have loved getting back to camp, seeing old friends and enjoying some teen time.
Camp MOST along with our program, Social Motion Skills, is all about encouraging the teens along in their transition from childhood to adulthood and supporting them through this challenging time of life. High school is tough enough for any teenager, and when you bring a disability into the mix, it adds a whole other dimension to the puzzle. At Camp MOST, the teens find a support group among each other and are able to talk about what it’s like to be a teenager with a disability, how they navigate their high school, and share advice about how to teach and interact with their peers about disabilities in a positive way. In the future, we hope to add an element to camp that touches on transition from high school to post secondary life like our High School High Tech Program – meaning college, employment, vocational school, etc. We want to encourage the teens to become self advocates and learn how to get the most out of their life! We hope to accomplish this by stressing the development of relationships, natural supports, personal expectations, community involvement, social skills and self-determination – all key components of Social Motion Skills.
It’s amazing to watch these campers who once were young nervous little kids, arrive at camp and check themselves in, turn in all of their medication and explain what each of them is for, and explain their own personal care needs to the volunteers. They are really learning to be self advocates and understand how to take responsibility for themselves. I also love watching the campers develop true friendships among one another. They all exchange contact information with each other at camp and many stay in touch and become great friends! They really are each other’s best support because no one knows what it’s like to be in their shoes except for them. I love that Camp MOST helps the campers find and connect with people who understand them and can relate to their life experiences. Not to mention, it’s a great place for these teens to escape for a weekend and just let loose and have fun!
I hope that Camp MOST continues to grow and encourage teens through their high school years. It is definitely my dream to see some of these campers come back in the future as mentors to the new campers! Between the community support, MOST, Social Motion Skills and High School High Tech, we hope the community sees the importance of giving teens with disabilities a chance – they can excel at school, go on to college and be gainfully employed. We can’t do it without support both monetarily and volunteer based. Please consider making a gift, serving as a volunteer or asking your company to be a host site for our high school program.
Here’s a little taste of the success we see – C has been attending our children’s camp since he was 7 years old. Every year at our children’s camp, he refused to do the high ropes course. Now 14, C saw being at teen camp as a rite of passage and as an opportunity to challenge himself and step outside of his comfort zone. So, C got up to the top of the high ropes course (nearly 3 stories high!), and then flew back down via the zip line. C screamed and beamed all the way down, and at the end of it exclaimed, “Check it out, I did it!”