Tag Archives: Camp Smiles

Nothing “Dull” About Camp

Easter Seals Greater Houston hosts several camps throughout the Greater Houston area and at Camp For All in Burton, Texas every summer. These camps serve children with disabilities, some of which are medically fragile, and their siblings. The days are filled with inclusive, accessible activities that all the children and volunteers enjoy. The following was written by one of our amazing 2018 summer camp interns.

ConleeHi my name is Conlee Dull and I go to Memorial High School. This will be my 5th year volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston specifically their summer Camps and Recreation Program. I think by far one of my favorite memories from camp is the first time I ever gave a camper an award. Just to see the smile light up on their face and how proud their family was honestly made everything I did with my camper even more rewarding. Through volunteering I have learned that people with disabilities are the same as any other kids and they just want to have a good time without being judged just as any other kid would. Through volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp and Recreation Program I have really developed a passion of working with people with special needs and I can’t wait to see how much it grows this summer when I intern!

conlee at most

Conlee Dull, Summer Camps and Recreation Intern, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

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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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Camp Friends are the Best Friends

Dear Carolina & Juana,

Because Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp Smiles changed my life so much I feel I need to let you know how 4 years ago, my first year, you had to convince my mom & dad to let me come to camp at all. My parents tried to find every reason possible that I shouldn’t be allowed to come and told CAnna 3hristine & Betsy why it would be better for me to stay home. All they would say to my parents was, “No problem – we can handle it.” My mom told me she cried every day because she missed me so much the first year I was at camp – ridiculous, right?!?!

Fast forward 3 years and I’m now having to say “see you later” to my Camp Smiles family… My mom is crying for a different reason this year – she knows I have met 2 of the most important people – you two, Carolina & Juana – who have been my counselors every year I’ve been here. Both of you have helped me become more confident in who I am. You have given me a reason to be Anna 1happy every summer because I know you accept me for who I am and make me feel understood and important. You have become more like big sisters – a part of my family – more than just camp counselors. And even though I won’t be back at Camp Smiles again as a camper I’m praying our paths continue to cross forever. You are two of the most amazing people and I hope all of your dreams come true.

Thank you to every friend I’ve made and every counselor who took the time to get to know me at camp.  I’m better for having all of you in my life.  I love you all and am grateful for all of you!

Love,

Anna, Camp Smiles Camper, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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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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Camp Starts With You…The Volunteer

Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Smiles is off to an incredible start, and we couldn’t do it without our volunteers.  They arrived on Saturday at Camp For All before Campers for more training and team-building.  The 60 volunteers range in age from 16 to 26, from first timers to 9 year veterans (wow!), and nearly half are sibling sets.  It’s all in the family when it comes to volunteering at Camp Smiles!

“I’m so excited about my little brother being here as a volunteer,” said one.  “I have gotten so much out of volunteering at Camp Smiles and I know he will, too.  I can’t wait to see him with his camper!”

As their final team-building activity, the volunteers gathered in a circle.  The first timers talked about what they were most excited about and the veterans talked about what keeps them coming back.  They had in common wanting to create an atmosphere of welcoming and celebration, and of making each camper feel like the coolest kid at camp.

Jessie, a former Camp Smiles camper and a first time volunteer, knows Camp Smiles’ impact from both sides.  She was the last to speak and she said, “The cabins, the activities, this awesome site that we’re on, and the fact that we’re away from our families – all that is really great.  But camp starts with you, the volunteers.  You make that stuff go from really great to amazing, and you help make memories that stay with a camper their whole life.”

Christine Ellery, Program Director, Camps Counseling & Case Management

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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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