Tag Archives: Camp

The Impact of Camp

The following blog was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Summer 2021 Camp Intern.

My name is Maddie Farrell, I’m 20 years old, and I have lived in Houston my entire life. I’m a rising junior at Texas A&M University, where I’m studying Environmental Science in hopes to work in the sustainability field. I am involved in my sorority and Aggie ACHIEVEMates, a student organization that supports the students with disabilities in the ACHIEVE program at Texas A&M. I’m very passionate about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s mission and advocating for people with disabilities. I first started volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston in high school through my chapter of National Charity League. I’ve volunteered at both Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo and I loved my experiences at both of them. I had no idea how great an impact Easter Seals Greater Houston and their clients would have on my life when I first volunteered. I have met so many amazing kids, made so many sweet friendships, and learned a lot about myself and what it means to make a difference. I’m beyond excited to serve as a camps intern for the second year in a row and I can’t wait to see the kids in person this year! 

Did you know that June is National Camping Month? Easter Seals Greater Houston proudly hosts numerous accessible day and overnight camps throughout Texas. Help ensure children with disabilities have a barrier free summer and parents of children with disabilities receive caregiving relief. Donate Today! #NationalCampingMonth

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Family Camp Fun

Easter Seals Greater Houston puts on a variety of fully inclusive camps. Over the last year many of our camps have been virtual, but we found a way to create a phenomenal family camp in which everyone was safely socially distanced. Here are some of the wonderful memories made at Family Camp!

“We have no words to say once and again THANK YOU so much!! We had the best family weekend EVER!! We were so happy, enjoying all the nature, all the activities and the most wonderful thing was to see Roman enjoying himself during the activities. It was great to see that he was able to fully participate in all of the activities with us, seeing his face smiling is priceless, and it was possible thanks to you!!
All the staff was very kind and patient with us, because we are a big family!! God bless you and keep doing this amazing job, bringing happiness to families like ours!!
I have attached some beautiful pictures of Roman and my family during this wonderful weekend!!

Regards and blessings,
Carolina and Family”

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Family Camp was Kingsley’s first time at a sleep-away camp! With his family by his side, Kingsley felt safe & comfortable trying all new camp activities. On his first day of camp he rode horses, climbed the rock-wall, and even zip-lined! That night, we played a game called “Mission Rescue”; we had to save camp from being turned into cheese by an evil scientist! Campers had to make it from the dining hall to the other side of camp without getting caught by the “minions”, who would shine their flashlight on you and make you start over. Suddenly, going out into the dark felt scary to Kingsley, and his anxiety began to kick in about the minions in the dark. Despite mom’s reassurance and encouragement, he had quickly decided the game was too scary to play. I swooped in, asking Kingsley, “Kingsley, would it make you feel better if you had a flashlight too? So that if a minion beams you with a flashlight, you can beam them back!” He immediately jumped up and exclaimed, “YES!”. Armed with his new flashlight-shield, he headed outside to start the game with a smile on his face. Often times, a small token of reassurance goes a long way with our campers. The combined support from camp staff and parents allow campers to feel that they can do anything at camp, even something they might have shied away from in everyday life.

Camp is magic!

Lilly shared that had a great time at camp and enjoyed everything from the Energizers in the morning to the s’mores at night! Her favorite activity was horseback riding (it was her dad’s first time!) with zip-lining as a close second!

Easter Seals Greater Houston has camps for children, teens, adults, veterans, and families. Learn more about our inclusive camps today!

**In some of the pictures, masks are down/not on. In these cases, they were the only family at the outdoor activity—no other camp families or staff were around. Another family member took the photos.*

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The most important thing about Camp MOST

This wonderful mini success story was written by Camp M.O.S.T. volunteer, Darrell, on his most recent application for virtual Camp M.O.S.T. taking place this month. 

“I’ve had the blessing to experience both in-person and online Camp MOST. Although one might not be ideal as the other, I can’t express how much I’ve enjoyed them both. I’ve learned that what makes Camp MOST special isn’t the location, the ice cream, or the 2 hours of sleep. It’s the campers, the counselors, and the dancing to music like nothing matters that makes Camp MOST special to me. I wouldn’t change a thing about our camp!!”

Easter Seals Greater Houston is so proud to host inclusive and unbelievably fun camps, for kids, teens, and families throughout the year. Learn more about our camps!

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Connecting Campers

The following was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Program Director.

This July, we hosted two weeks of Virtual Camp! This program was open to all our returning and previously registered campers from both Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo. Campers were able to customize their “camp box,” meaning they got to pick out all the crafts, classes, and activities they wanted to participate in! For two weeks, we met every day over Zoom to complete the camp box activities we had delivered to their houses. We had so many smiles and laughs while completing new activities!

A lot of our campers’ favorite activity was the talent show! We had so many campers show off their unique talents and awesome skills. Our campers were incredibly supportive of each other, and cheered on their friends as they performed their act. Many of these campers had never met in person before this week; some were completely new to Easter Seals Great Houston’s camps, some had attended different weeks of Camp Buckaroo, and some had only previously attended Camp Smiles. It was heart-warming to see how friendly and supportive these campers were after just knowing each other for one week! I can’t wait for them to meet in-person next year.

Virtual Camp was very different from our usual summer camps. Moving things online limited our activity options and ways we could interact, but I truly feel that the atmosphere of camp was still there. For those two weeks, I was greeted with smiling faces and campers that were ready to start their day with energizers. Our days at camp were an opportunity for these campers to socialize with their camp friends and staff; they were able to feel included and encouraged by individuals sharing the same challenges as them. With the pandemic continuing to limit social interaction, it’s important for these kids to have a place to belong. Easter Seals will continue to provide programs like this to our campers throughout the fall!

Kenzie Richard
Camp Program Manager

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp Programs, hosted in-person and virtually.

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Internships Build Resumes and Priceless Friendships

Every year Easter Seals Greater Houston hires two interns to help run our amazing summer camps. This year we hired Lindsay and Maddie who are tasked with helping make sure our first ever virtual camps run smoothly. Read how the campers inspire these two hard working young women!

Hi everyone!

Camp Intern 1My name is Lindsay.  This summer marks my fifth summer being involved with Easter Seals Greater Houston and my second summer as a Camp Intern!  I began volunteering with Easter Seals summer of 2016, simply to get service hours.  Little did I know at the time how much Easter Seals would transform my life.  Interning last summer was hands down one of the best summers of my life.  I learned so much and made the most amazing connections with those around me.  In the fall, I’m headed to Texas A&M University to study Allied Health.  Easter Seals has provided me with an amazing career trajectory as I hope to be either a speech pathologist or physical therapist in the future.  Time will tell which one of these paths I choose to take!

Camp Intern 2While being stuck in quarantine, one of the things I have missed the most is camp.  Even though this summer is going to look different than most, I know it will be a great one! The thing I’m most excited about is reuniting with all the amazing campers I met last summer!  The friendships I have formed with so many campers are the reason why I keep coming back.  The children I have met at camp have shaped me into the person I am today, and I am forever thankful. One of my favorite stories is an interaction I had with a camper named Angel.  I met Angel at Camp Smiles last summer.  Throughout the week at camp, I got to know Angel and became friends with him.  At the end of the week, Angel told me camp was one of the best weeks of his life and that he was so excited to come back next year but only if I was there! It was such a small statement, but it meant so much.  I cannot wait for another summer full of little moments like this.

-Lindsay Veech

Hello Easter Seals readers!

camp Intern 4My name is Maddie, I’m 19, and I’ve lived in Houston my whole life! I just finished my freshman year at Texas A&M University, where I’m studying Environmental Science. At Texas A&M, I’m involved in my sorority Kappa Alpha Theta and Aggie ACHIEVEMates. I first started volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston through my chapter of National Charity League. I’m very passionate about Easter Seals and serving those with disabilities. I’ve been to both Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo! One ofmy favorite camp memories is Karate Day with my buddy Christian at Camp Buckaroo, he is a pro at karate-chopping! I’m so excited to be a summer camps intern this year. I can’t wait to learn more about Easter Seals and hang out with the most awesome campers!

Camp Intern 3

-Maddie Farrell

Learn more about our Camps and Recreation Programs and volunteering opportunities today!

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Success and Virtual Services – Stories from our Staff and Clients

Adult Services/LEAD
With the current Coronavirus pandemic, causing shutdowns of businesses, limited access to resources, and just overall stress for every single person in the United States, the Easter Seals Greater Houston L.E.A.D. program is fighting back the stress with creativity in technology! By utilizing webcam access, we have still been able to meet with our adult program daily and covered many new ways to communicate. First step was showing all the tips and tricks with Facebook and how to create video conversations with their friends; allowing our clients to still stay as close as ever even during this time of social distancing. As we move forward, our next step has been creating a new activity calendar FULL of fun creative ways to stay busy, from virtual tours online to chair yoga YouTube videos. We have definitely been challenged by this pandemic, but it is not stopping us whatsoever. Having to think outside of the box has been the L.E.A.D.’s group specialty, and with everyone in this social crew working together, we are still making it the best part of our week. By using these amazing resources of technology, we are still able to function together as a team and continue to socialize just like before, just this time with a little distance.  Check out what we’ve produce here on our BridgingApps YouTube Channel!  From Rebecca, Adult Services LEAD Program

Camp, School, Therapy and More!
I was on the phone with a Buckaroo mom about the COVID-19 emergency funding; she was super appreciative. We started talking about her son, Bryson, who has come to Buckaroo– but it has always been a struggle for him to do a whole day of camp. Bryson has non-verbal autism and he does what HE wants to do (i.e. not a fan of buckaroo group activities, or listening), so he mostly came to Buckaroo for a couple hours each day to watch camp from the side. Mom said that for the first week of quarantine, Bryson stood at the door with his backpack every morning for 45 minutes because he wanted to go to school so badly. Nevertheless, she said that homeschooling has actually been amazing for them! He has been getting speech therapy over the phone, with mom consistently implementing the therapy because they are together all day. She said he has learned a few ASL signs and he is SO excited that he is able to communicate! It was a huge breakthrough for both of them; he realized that instead of just DOING what he wants, he gets what he wants easily if he does a sign for it! It warmed my heart that she would share that with me, and I am so glad that there is some positives coming out of quarantine, and we can’t wait to see him at Camp Buckaroo!  From Kenzie Richard, Camps, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Creativity and Patience – Children’s Therapy Program
“We wanted to have a family meal where everyone was sharing a nice homemade meal. Sounds pretty easy, but it wasn’t. We sought out a food therapy program to help with Edgar’s limited diet, his overeating tendencies, and his textural sensibilities. When Easter Seals started offering food therapy, we quickly signed Edgar up for it because there would be no force feeding involved, a big plus for my sweet sensitive child!

I have noticed that after starting the food therapy program with Alysia, Edgar has gone from eating a handful of foods to at least trying out different foods I never thought would be possible. I never expected results in such a short amount of time. Lettuce, strawberries, and even hamburger meat? Those foods seemed like a long shot…a goal for the long run. Yet here we are, months into the food therapy program and my child is opening up! Suddenly, sharing the same nice homemade meal with the family doesn’t seem as far-fetched as I had imagined last year!

I can honestly say that the food therapy in combination with other therapies including his occupational therapy with Alysia, Speech with Miaya, Ingrid with Music, his kindergarten teacher, his school assigned case worker, and even his school principal have all helped propel my son forward. Alysia, I can’t thank you enough! Your creativity and your patience with Edgar has shown in many areas and now with Food therapy, you have given us a gift our family will always cherish. Food is family and love! ” – -Doris, Parent, Client, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Children’s Therapy Program

 

 

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MOST of All!

Teamwork makes the dream work!  Teens with cerebral palsy and volunteers (many of them long-time volunteers – thanks, friends!) had a great time last month at Easter Seals Camp MOST Weekend Camp – riding horses, doing archery, and challenging themselves at the tower – and learning about self-awareness, advocacy, and teamwork during the jam sessions. Camp Most pic 1 This past weekend the crew worked together to line up PVC pipe and get a marble from one end to the other.  Kudos to teen, Sebastian, for stepping up and leading the teens and getting everyone started on a plan.  The teens got the ball rolling and had a resounding success!

Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Coordinator

Camp Most pic 2

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First Light and The Wish Float

What an incredible 4th First Light Family Camp we had! And the lessons, encouragement, and realizations keep coming.  The families are there because they are first and foremost a military family. We are proud that we can be of support to them through Easter Seals  Veterans Services, but more importantly, we are honored by the work they have done for our Country and the work they are doing for their families now.  We were also really excited to have donors who wanted to ensure that all the children attending received a new bike. Who knew it would lead to some incredible revelations. Untitled

“First light is hopeful, beautiful, but it is also when you are at your most vulnerable.”

One family of four who attended with two children both of whom have disabilities, learned a new lesson.  “Wow a bike!  You think I can learn how to ride it?”   Apparently, the children were never taught to ride… plenty of reasons, mostly protecting them – but the truth is it was just one more thing that made the children feel different adding to the list of disability, divorce, and military.   One of the children after taking the first turn on learning to ride said, “This is going to make me feel really good.”

Another mom of a family attending reflected on her childhood memories of what a bike meant to her as a child, bottom line – freedom.  “I think about my kids and the childhood they’re having now.  They are not having the “normal” childhood I had.  Maybe these bikes are going to help us ALL feel free again.”

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“The Wish Float, when something spiritual becomes real.”

 

 

The Wish Float, a tradition at First Light it, is an emotional event, after a day of mental health focused break-out sessions, nighttime with the family and new friends, stars out, our flag lit up and campfire going. Everyone is asked to send out their wishes and hopes in a note with a candle into the darkness.

One family, enjoying the night realized one young adult child was off to the side on their own.  Everyone assumed normal teen stuff.   Turns out, a younger child with a disability from another family, being emotional, had reached out to the closest person for comfort, their young adult. And it turns out, that is all it took, the touch of a child for this family member to realize that they always needed to be there for their family, not just for the weekend, but for life. First Light

Upon seeing the picture – Mom said, “I remember loving this moment! I felt like things were going to be truly o.k. with my kids.”

And that is what this Easter Seals Veteran Family Camp is all about.  Being okay with yourself, and being present for your family.

Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director; Kenzie Richard Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Coordinator

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Coming Full Circle – Volunteer to Staff Member

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Katherine von Haefen is a long-time United Way Greater Houston staff person.  She was at United Way when I was in high school, and she was in charge of the Kids Way Program then.  Kids Way was most definitely the thing that taught me to love volunteering in high school, and really instilled in me the idea of lifelong volunteerism.  Fast forward to today, and Katherine’s high school aged daughter, Alison, volunteered for Camp Buckaroo for the first time this summer.  Alison had a wonderful time and is now thinking about making working with people with disabilities her career, as many of our amazing teen volunteers do.  She’s already reached back out to Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Camp Program Coordinator, to ask about volunteering during the school year!  It’s neat to think that Katherine was around when I discovered my love for volunteering, and now I’m around when her daughter’s making the same discovery – totally coming full circle.

Christine Ellery, Program Director Easter Seals Greater Houston.

*Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to have been a partner of United Way GH since the days of it being called The Community Chest… a very long time! UWGH has enabled ESGH to serve so many more clients – thousands and thousands – through their and their donors support allowing us to ensure family stability, create growth, independence, and more.

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Big Gifts and Little Gifts According to Our Will

Will and La'Tori 1

My name is Will Ellery.  I am 8 years old and I go to Parker Elementary.  My mom works at Easter Seals.  Sometimes I get to go to camp with her.  When I do, if everyone has gone first and had all the turns they want at the activities, then sometimes I get to go too.  I’ve never been able to do the ropes course because I always get scared.  One time I put on the harness and that was all I could do.  Another time I climbed up the ladder to get on the giant swing, but then I just climbed back down the ladder.  One time I started climbing the rock wall, but then I came back down after halfway because I didn’t feel safe.

Before Thanksgiving I got to go to the Veterans and family camp.  I met my friend, Ms. La’Tori, there.  She was there by herself because her baby is sick.  She is in the NICU at the hospital.  I was in the NICU too when I was a baby so that’s something we have in common.  Ms. La’Tori said she was going up the rock wall by herself, but she was going to wait for everybody else.  I told her I wasn’t allowed to go until last, and only if there was enough time.  She asked me if I had climbed the rock wall before, and I told her my stories about getting scared.  She said, “Well, why don’t we try going together?”

So we stood and waited together.  Sometimes I would get butterflies in my stomach.Will and La'Tori 2  I asked Ms. La’Tori if she was sure we could go together.  She said yes.  I asked her if she would stay with me and not go too fast.  She said yes to that too.  Some of the big older boys were going up the wall fast like Spiderman!

When it was our turn I went on the left side and Ms. La’Tori went on the right side.  She smiled real big and asked if I was ready.  I said yes and we started climbing.  Ms. La’Tori stayed right next to me.  Sometimes I even went a little faster than her!  When I had trouble on the hard parts she asked me if I was okay.  She tried to help me by pointing to rocks I could put my hands and feet on.Will and La'Tori 3

I made it to the top first!  When I got to the top I cheered for Ms. La’Tori so she could make it to the top too.  I was hoping we could go down the zipline together, but there was a line of people on her side.  I thought I would be scared to go down the zipline because I wasn’t going with Ms. La’Tori.  But you know what?  Once I got all the way to the top, nothing was scary anymore!  It’s like I just had to climb the wall once and then I got brave.

Since I went down the zipline first, I got to watch Ms. La’Tori from the ground.  I guessed she was probably scared up there.  So I yelled real loud that she didn’t need to worry and that it was going to be so much fun.  She went down the zipline a really brave way – backwards!

I’m really glad I met Ms. La’Tori at camp.  She helped me do something I never got to do before!

Note from Will’s mom (Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Program Director): Some of the greatest blessings of working at Easter Seals have been the experiences and interactions with people my kids have had.  From a young age, my kids have met people of all ages and all abilities and disabilities, and as Easter Seals has expanded its Veterans Program, my kids have met amazing Veterans and Veteran families.  All these people have helped to shape my kids and their capacity for kindness and compassion.

About Will’s story above…  One thing worth mentioning is La’Tori is an Air Force Veteran, so probably not as afraid of heights as Will guessed!  I loved and appreciated how capable and brave La’Tori made Will feel, from the times she let him climb a little faster than her, to her taking in all his words (um, screams) of ziplining advice and no-fear from below.  She made him feel so confident.  And I hope being at Veterans and family camp made La’Tori feel confident.  As a mom whose baby was also in the NICU, I know there are so many questions and so much to be anxious about; it’s hard to feel confident.  But watching La’Tori with Will, it’s so easy to see what a great mom she is.  I’m so excited La’Tori’s sweet baby girl gets to come home soon!    

Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Program Director  ; Will Ellery, Lifelong Easter Seals Houston Volunteer and Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Program Coordinator

 

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