Tag Archives: Camp

Let the Camps Begin

“It’s hard to believe that our camps for the Spring of 2019 are over! We have had such a blast these past couple of months at camp. This Spring, Easter Seals has hosted two wonderful weekend camps at Camp For All. We kicked off the New Year by running our second session of First Light Family Camp, a weekend retreat for veterans and their families! Though this camp was held in late January, we had beautiful and sunny weather all weekend long. Ten families joined in on the fun; we arrived on Friday night for dinner and had a campfire at dark- complete with s’mores and sing-a-long songs! Saturday was jam-packed with fun activities; we were able to participate in cast fishing, horses and barnyard, and even got to dress up in the costume closet and have a fashion show! Throughout the weekend, we broke into small groups to discuss stress relief/management, coping mechanisms, and even got to do some relaxation yoga! It was a fun adventure for our families to join us at camp for the first time!

We hosted our Spring session of Camp M.O.S.T. (Miles of Smiles for Teens) earlier this February! As always, camp was a blast! It was a fun reunion for campers and volunteers from the fall to get together again! The weather for this session of camp was chillier than usual, but our group braved the cold to participate in all the awesome activities camp has to offer. This session of Camp M.O.S.T. was Olympic themed, and everyone got in on the fun and light-hearted competition. During the weekend, we broke up into four teams; each team got their chance to compete in the Olympic events, ranging from “Counselor Curling” to a donut eating competition. The weekend also included some educational and inspiring Jam Sessions- where campers were able to work on skills such as advocacy, education, and other skills. Throughout the weekend, we were inspired by various videos and interviews with awesome Paralympic athletes! On Sunday, we had to say goodbye during our closing ceremony, but we are so excited for our next session of camp in the fall!”

Kenzie Richard, Camps Program Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Recovering Together

Camp Discovery – named by putting the words Disaster and Recovery together – served families affected by Harvey and participating in counseling services through our Harvey Case Management Program.  It was a wonderful weekend retreat!  The families participated in typical camp activities like archery, horseback riding, nature, and a ropes course, as well as “team huddles” – mental health-focused break-out sessions for parents, teens, big kids, and little kids.

Harvey blog 3.JPGCamp Discovery was just one mental health support service made possible by the grants from Americares, Save the Children, and the Houston Harvey Relief Fund.  Through these grants, our team of case managers, mental health clinicians, financial stability coaches, and technology experts – impacted over 3000 families affected by Hurricane Harvey.

In late October a team of Easter Seals staff and volunteers hosted and facilitated a camp for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey at Camp For All.  Since then we have continued to serve people with disabilities and veterans through Harvey recovery and are proud to be a recipient of continued funding from The Mayor’s Fund and Enterprise / Heart so that we can continue in our efforts through housing assistance now. The experiences and memories made were more than words can describe. I will try my best to express what I witnessed and the successes I saw. Most of the families that attended our Camp Discovery shared that this was their first time having an experience like this, all together as a family unit, away from electronics, and in tune with the elements. Many shared that they were able to try things that they had never done before such as fishing, canoeing, zip-lining, horseback riding, and being able to interact and learn about new animals.harvey blog

There was awe and surprise from the very beginning.  When one family saw the retreat that would be their home for the weekend, one boy said, “This is the nicest place we’ve ever stayed!”  And the shyness of the families with each other dissipated very quickly.  By the close of the first night, just hours after having met, they were dancing together and enjoying s’mores around the campfire.

We had several little ones try out the tall rock climbing wall to later zip-line down. Two of our participants got “stuck” near the top of their goal and were ready to give up. Tears were shed and panic set in a bit as the goal to reach the top seemed unachievable and scary so high up from the ground. One mother became concerned but with support from the mental health team was able to turn her panic into words of encouragement. The mother, alongside the other campers, cheered on Jeffery and provided guidance on stabilizing his footing so that he could pull himself up to the ledge. Jeffery was successful and enthusiastically moved on to the next challenge- zip-lining back down.

One of our younger campers also struggled near the top of his rock wall experience, but he had climbed the wall alongside his mother and she was able to provide one on one support in the moment. The support staff watched in amazement at this mother’s immediate instinct to provide reassurance and support to our brave camper while also allowing him to do all the work to get himself up.

harvey blog 2Most of the weekend, I heard parents express how amazed they were about their children and their brave efforts to try out new things and face some of their fears.

The families shared how they surprised themselves with courage and willingness to try new things.

Many of the mothers commented that a win and success for the weekend was not having to cook while also enjoying all the activities with the family.

One mom, whose house had to be totally gutted, said that they had not put up any pictures yet.  She said the frames of family photos given at camp were going to be the very first frames they put up.

Another family reminded us that the camp experience brought back similar experiences from Harvey such as staying in a different place, eating food that was not “our own”, and adjusting to a different routine, but that camp opened the space to rewrite that story and make new fun memories with the family.

Erica Toskovich, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Mental Health Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston 

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A Camp that Changed a Life

Hi All,

My name is Amanda Carter and I am a 2008 alumni of Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Smiles Overnight Camp. I started attending Camp Smiles held at Camp For All in Brenham in the summer of 2001 after having attended Easter Seals Houston’s Camp Buckaroo day camp. After a little case of homesickness, I grew to love going to camp and the people I met while there. My favorite activity was the photography class I took every year it was offered where I became heavily involved in my current hobby of severe weather photography. I am still friends on Facebook with all of my camp “buddies,” without whom I could not have had nearly as much fun and laughed quite as hard. I also keep in touch with several of my fellow campers and they have become a great source of mentorship in regard to learning how to live independently.amanda

I landed in Lubbock with the help of my parents and full time staff of personal care attendants after earning my Psychology degree at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Going to Texas Tech has always been a huge dream and having an opportunity to go there to get my law degree was practically nerdy nirvana. Going to law school requires a huge emotional support system; going to law school from a power wheelchair requires an army. There were many challenges, including hiring and firing many attendants, calling Mom and Dad to fill those attendants gaps, and calling friends and sorority sisters to cry about those dreaded classes, that were part of that journey. To my relief I made it to May of 2018 and became the fourth generation in my family to graduate as a Red Raider.

Since that time, I’ve landed at Matthew Harris Law in Lubbock after passing the July 2018 Bar Exam. I am currently practicing Family Law but I simultaneously maintain an interest in Special Needs Wills and Trusts and generally helping those like me find their path towards financial and physical independence. MHL has made a donation in my honor to Easter Seals of Greater Houston and that is so special! We collectively strive to present a model of employer-employee relations as it relates to working with community of people with disabilities. I have felt so welcomed in the firm where I started as an intern. Now as an attorney, I have learned so much about the law and myself through the accommodation and acceptance of my coworkers. Being successful starts with who you surround yourself with and, more importantly, how you define it. Only your definition matters. I am so excited to see where your definition takes you! Guns Up!

Sincerely,

Amanda E. Carter, Esq.

Attorney at Law

matthew law

www.MatthewHarrisLaw.com

 

          

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What the Snap?

Ethan, one of our Easter Seals Houston 2018 Summer Camp Interns, has been Denium’s counselor for the past two years. Before that, they had been in the same cabin. Over the three years, they built an amazing bond that helped both of them grow in a way that will forever be remembered. Sadly, camp does not last forever. At Camp Smiles, campers graduate when they are 14 years old. The graduation ceremony is always a very emotional time, as counselors who have been with their campers for years, give a speech to say farewell to some of the most impactful people in their lives. There is rarely a dry eye in the audience. Here is the speech Ethan gave to Denium as he was graduating:

You have been a part of my life I will never forget. From the countless catch phrases such as “ooooooh you got a girlfrieeeend” to nicknaming Pablo as Pappadeux, your humor is a gift that will be remembered by all.

This is our second year together. Imagining a camp experience without you is just strange to me. While your presence overall is unforgettable, there are some specific instances that are especially amazing. Two years ago, we had a very emotional day together. We were outside of the art barn, and I decided to sneak up on you and pop a wheelie as a joke. Little did I know, you were already in an irritable mood because of something that had just happened. As soon as I did that, you reached back and swatted at me. My popping a wheelie with you was the tip of your iceberg. You were very upset. We got back to the cabin and the other counselors and I insist that you apologize. After a while, our friend, Lee, took you to the bathroom so y’all could have a talk about it and calm down. What happened next is something that will never fail to make my heart melt. I remember you coming in, looking very sad. You came up to me and said something very softly, too softly to hear. I ask what you said. You took a moment to collect yourself. Then, you pulled me in as tight as you could and profusely apologized to me and told me how sad you were. Never in my life have I experienced such raw sincerity. While you were crying and apologizing, I began to cry as well as I realized how sincere and caring of a person you truly are.

After a couple of years with you, I’ve noticed some changes in your personality. For one, during your first year, you were completely repulsed by the idea of interacting with the icky icky girls. Now this year, you can’t stay away from them. You went from poking fun at Lee for having a girlfriend by saying “oooooh, you got a girlfriend” every time Sophie walked by. Now, you proudly announce to your whole cabin that you indeed do “have a girlfriend”.

On a more serious note, the change that I have been most proud to witness is how much more open you’ve been with your caring personality. Spending time with you has given me the unique opportunity to experience not only the hilariously wild side of you that I call “what the snap Denium” but also the sweet and tender side of you. The side of you that holds Jacoby with care. The side that is well beyond content while tickling and smiling at Niko. It has been very impactful on me and has made me so happy. I’m so proud that I got to see you interact with the little ones so well.  The way you interact with the little ones has made everyone who has been around you smile. The way you interact with Niko and Jacoby shows a new side of you that makes me so so proud. You are truly beyond your years with the way you patiently interact with these kids.

Camp has been a huge part of my life. I tell everyone I meet that there is nothing more I look forward to than this particular week. Every time I envision future camp experiences, I still picture you being a part of them. You’re an important part of this community we have and will be missed dearly.

I know that as you move on in life, you will continue to make others happy. Whether it be through your humor, or your humongous caring heart, you will make the lives of so many people much brighter. I hope that we keep in touch so that when I have kids one day, you can make them smile.

Ethan, Summer Camp Intern, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

 

 

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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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Anchors Aweigh Campers

IMG_1272Ahoy from Camp MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens)! This past weekend, Easter Seals Greater Houston hosted Camp MOST– a weekend retreat for young adults with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders. Our theme this spring was Anchors Aweigh- we had nautical decorations, activities, and snacks! With 14 amazing campers and 17 amazing counselors we set sail for a fun filled weekend!

IMG_1175On Friday, the campers docked at Camp For All around dinner time. That night, we had an awesome Amazing Race activity and then a campfire complete with s’mores, skits, and some campfire songs. On both Saturday and Sunday Camp MOST hit some rough waters- it rained off and on both days. Despite the rain, our camp had the MOST fun! We got to participate in canoes, fishing, photography, archery, paintball, ZIPLINING, and most of all our amazing Jam Sessions.

In our Jam Sessions, we talked about awesome topics related to transition into young adulthood, and what that looks like as a teen with a disability. In the first Jam Session we discussed how independence doesn’t mean doing it all alone. Topics included learning to speak up and self-advocate during IEP meetings and college advising meetings. Later in the day campers were asked to “Set Your Course!” and each shared what they want and what they need to do to achieve this goal.

Each camper ended the weekend with fantastic memories, new friends, and a plan to set their course in order to achieve their dreams! All aboard for success!

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“I want to figure out where I am in life and who I truly am. Step 1: Don’t listen to the negative talk/self-talk”

Mackenzie Richard, Camp Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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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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