Tag Archives: Camp MOST

Getting the MOST Out of Camp

 

GroupCamp MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) is Easter Seals Greater Houston’s three-day overnight retreat for teens with cerebral palsy. Camp MOST and Easter Seals’ Transition Program teamed up to create four jam sessions, group sessions for learning and reflection. The four topics covered self esteem; understanding realistic vs. unrealistic expectations and exploring options; conflicts and setbacks; and envisioning the future. Great group chats were had, and they didn’t stop when the sessions ended- you could hear the teens still talking about the topics around the table at mealtimes!

Ever wonder who our Camp MOST teens are or what they’re like?  Here’s a glimpse, in their own words:

DSC_0004What are you good at?

  • Writing & reading
  • Painting
  • Making friends
  • Learning
  • Art & being sassy
  • Listening
  • Swimming & running
  • Making conversation
  • Coding
  • Expressing my opinion
  • Riding horses
  • Video games
  • Making people laugh

What are your goals and ambitions?

  • Get stronger physically
  • Lower my school stress
  • Be the best person I can be
  • Publish a book
  • Continue to go to school and work
  • Work hard in school
  • Go to college and move out
  • Finish college
  • Express myself
  • Do well at Rodeo
  • Transfer to a 4 year college, get a degree, and become a web designer
  • Walk across the stage at graduation (from a camper who uses a wheelchair)

What makes you strong?DSC_0097

  • My spirit to get back up
  • My kindness
  • Having a good heart
  • Being myself
  • The people who love me
  • My work ethic
  • My sense of humor
  • Church
  • The support and encouragement I get from friends on social media

My future is bright because…

  • I’m going to try my best in life
  • I’ll be graduating soon
  • I do amazing at school
  • My positive attitude
  • My family and friends support me
  • I’m me
  • I’m talented
  • I’m going to prom with a pretty girl
  • I work hard, I don’t give up, and I don’t feel sorry for myself

Special thanks to Jacquelyn Miller, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) Coordinator/Transition Coordinator, for adapting the curriculum for Camp MOST, and to Amy Burgdorf for facilitating the jam sessions.

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Miraculous Megan: Longtime Client and Friend

Megan Fry is an amazing 17 year old girl. She has been part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston family for over 10 years. She has the mind and the personality of a typical developing teenage girl. She loves art and has her own website, Just My Eye, that meg-w-dvox-300x225showcases her creations. One of Megan’s many unique qualities is that she was born with cerebral palsy, with an end result of being nonverbal and using a wheelchair to maneuver around. You need to be careful because she drives her chair around very fast! She communicates and shows off her big personality by using a Tobii. The Tobii is a device that allows Megan to use her eyes to pick out her words which are then shared through the speaker.

Over the years, Megan has attended our summer camps, participated in Family Day Out, received In-Home Respite, and participated in our BridgingApps program. Her family has participated in our Lil’ Rustler Rodeo night with the Houston Livestocgroupk Show and Rodeo, used a Respitality weekend, participated in our Walk With Me at the Houston Zoo event and our Hats Off to Mother’s Luncheon. We were fortunate to have Megan as our summer intern this past year. She created and distributed our Easter Seals Montgomery County newsletter. Megan is currently participating in our Family Day Out program as a Junior Director. She is amazing with our clients and our families.

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Megan is a true success story and ambassador for Easter Seals Greater Houston. Megan and her mom even went on speaking engagements last year to represent Easter Seals during the United Way campaign. She has received services and continues to give back to our community. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Megan because we know there is nothing she can’t accomplish!

Kristie Carlisle, Respite Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Check out Megan’s dad’s post about how assistive technology helped him connect with his daughter here!

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Robert’s Road Warriors

Join Easter Seals Greater Houston and Chairmen Katherine and Bob Dowdell on Saturday, April 9th for the 5th Annual Family Fun Walk, Walk With Me, at the Houston Zoo.  The Dowdell’s, alongside their team, Robert’s Road Warriors, are walking to support their 19 year old son Robert who struggles with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“Robert was first diagnosed with cataracts and then cerebral palsy at the age of 14 months.  Fortunately, he was able to participate in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) – physical, occupational and speech therapyECI offers a jump start for children with delayed developmental issues like Robert. While many of those years were mixed with hardships and challenges, Easter Seals was a constant support throughout. Easter Seals was with our family every step of the way to make Robert’s “disability” seem more like a “different ABILITY”.

Robert attended his first Easter Seals Camp when he was seven years old.  smiles robert dowdellHe attended Camp Buckaroo, a summer day camp for kids with special needs, and Camp Smiles, a week long spend-the-night camp in Burton, Texas.  Robert had never spent the night away from home, but I packed up his walker, wheelchair and orthotics for his adventure.  At camp, Robert was encouraged to try new things he never dreamed he could do, as he needed assistance with many everyday tasks. He did all the normal camp things; horseback riding, zip line, fishing, shot archery, sang karaoke, and danced and – for the first time in his life, he like a “normal” kid. He was loved for who he was, just as he was.  At the end of each camp session, Robert would cry when he saw we were there to pick him up…he didn’t want to leave!

????????????????????????????????????At age 15, Robert attended Camp Most. Camp Most is focused less on activities and more on building socialization skills in teens.  Robert learned important things like how to start a conversation, how to tell people about his disability, and how to determine his strengths to build a resume.  Robert has learned how to set goals.  His goals for 2016 include: to do his BEST in everything that he CAN do, to be a better brother to his sister, Katie and to be independent.  Easter Seals Camps have proven to be some of the most transformative events in Robert’s life to date.

Community support of Walk With Me is a blessing to many families in the greater Houston area – one that the Dowdell Family can personally attest to. Easter Seals provides life-changing services to people of all ages with all types of disabilities.  Thanks to Easter Seals, Robert is strong, happy, perseverant and optimistic about his bright future, and we are confident that Easter Seals will continue to help him become more self-reliant and prepare him for his future. Please consider supporting Walk With Me to guarantee services for Robert and other Houstonians with disabilities to help them discover their potential and hope for limitless possibilities!”

-Katherine Taylor Dowdell
Walk With Me Chair, Proud mother of Katie (22) and Robert (19) and grateful beneficiary of Easter Seals Greater Houston programs

Katherine and Robert DowdellMore About Walk With Me: 
Walk With Me is a 5K or shorter Family Fun Walk that helps raise awareness and resources for programs of Easter Seals, which help children and adults living with all types of disabilities. For more information contact Madison Shofner at 713-838-9050×304 or mshofner@eastersealshouston.org or visit our event website, click here!

More About the Dowdell Family:
Robert lives in Briargrove Park with his family.  His father, Bob, is an executive with Prosperity Bank and his mother, Katherine, is a retired banker and fundraiser.  Katherine serves on the Board of Directors for Easter Seals and Bob was instrumental in gaining the support of Prosperity Bank, the Title Sponsor for this year’s Walk With Me event.  Robert’s big sister, Katie, is a senior at Louisiana State University.  Robert is a senior at Westside High School.  He is active in Best Buddies Texas, Capernaum-a Young Life group for special needs kids, and Easter Seals Camp Most.

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PNO = R&R

My husband, Doug, and I welcomed our wonderful son, Duncan, after our 39th birthdays. Having met at 21, we’d spent the better part of two decades dining at the best “cheap eats” in Houston, taking weekend jaunts in Texas, exercising daily, and enjoying the occasional happy hour. Quite simply, we appreciated the benefits of living as DINKS (double-income, no kids).

Dec 2015 Respite blog PNO 1So along came our beautiful baby. Overnight, our lives transformed in rewarding and challenging ways I never could have imagined. Of course, this is true for any new parent, but there exists an additional anxiety, concern and effort when you care for a child with special needs. Doctors’ appointments, therapy, testing, tutoring, special-ed meetings, financial challenges, and countless hours of online research: It’s just plain exhausting.

So, when we heard about the Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program, Parents’ Night Out, we were cautiously optimistic.  We were happily surprised at its affordability: $10 for four hours of babysitting by Easter Seals’ skilled volunteers and staff.  But, we know our son. He is fearful of new situations, despite having attended summer camps with Easter Seals Greater Houston. Bless his heart, he is visually impaired, has epilepsy and CP, so who could blame him?Dec 2015 Respite blog PNO 2

Our concerns were unfounded and he made fast friends at Parents’ Night Out. The volunteers exemplify patience and understanding, each offering a weekend night to care for our son, later telling us how much they enjoy Duncan!  Six months later, he asks to attend the “babysitting place” nearly every Friday night.  Doug and I have actually seen three movies and been out to dinner twice during the last six weeks! That reconnection is critical with the added stress of our days.

From respite for caregivers to summer camps and fun activities for children, Easter Seals is a blessing for thousands of people in the Greater Houston area. And the Graham family is proof of that.

-Catherine Graham, Respite Program client parent

For more about Easter Seals‘ Care Giving Services, click here.
For more about Easter Seals’ Camps and Recreation, click here.

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Almost November …National Caregiver Month, A Celebration Of All Caregivers We Know!

heather jo 2heather jo 1Heather Jo has attended ESGH Camp Smiles overnight camp since she was 5.  It was such a great experience for her and for us as caregivers.  It gave her an opportunity to make lasting friends and to be independent for a short period of time.  She learned many things that she brought home and used in daily living skills.    The volunteers and staff at ESGH and Camp Smiles taught me how important it was for Heather Jo to go away to camp and because of it, today I advocate to other parents and caregivers the importance of camp. It gives the families much-needed respite and camp is a huge confidence builder for the campers.  I am forever grateful for ESGH and the volunteers for the hard work they put into making camp possible.  Attached are a few pics from Camp Smiles and I think it reflects the great work ESGH does there. heather jo 4 Also, a couple of pics of Heather Jo as we are on our way to camp.  You can see the joy in her face just knowing she is able to go to camp another year, all because of Easter Seals Greater Houston. I am also grateful to them for offering case management services for our CLASS program.  Cindy (our case manager) is so helpful.  She offers information when I need it. She researches, calls us on a regular basis to see how Heather Jo is doing and always shares conferences and activities she has learned about.  She returns phone calls promptly, which is very important for a Case manager.  When we have our heather jo 3quarterly meeting, she is well prepared with the paper work and any new information she feels could be beneficial to our case. I cannot stress enough the importance of a Case manager going beyond what I feel is necessary to a case and that is what she does.  She is very informative and up to date on all the latest laws and rules.  I think this reflects the caring attitude of Easter Seals Greater Houston and their willingness to support their case managers..  We are grateful for Easter Seals Greater Houston and Cindy and refer their services at every possible moment. Thank you, Mrs. Fredia Bassham and Heather Jo

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Miles Of SMILES!

teen and buddy

We think these pictures just about sum it up.  DSCF7764

 

 

 

 

 

Our most recent Camp MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) was held in March with 17 campers and 20 volunteers at Camp For All.
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These teens have aged out of traditional camp,  Camp Smiles & Buckaroo, and are at an important time in their lives right now.

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Thanks to donors, volunteers and other funding, we have been able to do this weekend

camp now 4 times….and will most definitely continue doing so.

Not only do the campers take part in the fun camp activities offered – like zip lining, canoeing, smores etc but they also role play, learn about self advocacy, learn measures to prevent bullying and lots more things important to any teenager!

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Our Newest Avril “Rock Stars”!

This past weekend, Easter Seals Grater Houston held its third installment of our teen camp, CamDSCF4708p 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, DSCF4551we 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 MDSCF4664OST 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!”

By Betsy Keane, Camp Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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