Tag Archives: Camp

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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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

Anna 2

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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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From Bloom Where You’re Planted – “Life and Times of the Kikuchi Girls”

Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Camp BuckarooThat week has been the highlight of the summer for Keags and Rys! kikuchi 3They were lucky enough to spend the last 5 days having non-stop fun at Camp Buckaroo put on by Easter Seals. It was such an incredible camp, run by incredible people for kids with special needs and their siblings. 

Everyday from 10-3 the girls were doted on and entertained with exciting stuff at the gorgeous and ginormous Woodlands United Methodist Church. Everyday they had story time, song and dance time, games, lunch, a craft and special guests. They also played on the awesome playground, did a scavenger hunt and built a giant fort. The special guests were a music therapist with tons of instruments, a dancer, the snake man with 8 snakes, Crocodile encounter with small alligators and crocodiles, Nature Discovery Center with turtles, lizards and exotic plants, fireman with their truck, a policeman with his car, and a clown!kikuchi 2They each had a college age buddy to help them throughout the week. Riley’s was Brooklyn and Keagan’s was Hallie. They were both so sweet and so helpful! There were also about 12 other cute kids there and a bunch of awesome volunteers, interns and Easter Seals employees. And I mean it when I say they were awesome! On day 1 I didn’t pack an extra set of clothes for Riley and her diaper leaked. Well they are so amazing that they ran to Target to buy her shorts because they didn’t want to bother me!!After the first day we got in the car and Keagan said “mommy I didn’t like it. I LOVED it!” She also told me all about her friend Noah and this silly momma asked her “is Noah special needs or a sibling?” Well shame on me for asking and thank heavens I have a smart daughter that set me straight! Keagan responded “mommy I don’t know! And I don’t care!” Out of the mouths of babes!

kikuchi 1On the last day of camp there was an awards ceremony. Keagan was presented with the “Most Couragous Dancing Queen” award for doing the Whip in front of the whole camp! And Riley received the “Star Performer” award for dancing, smiling and being happy all week. They also received their T-shirts and cute scrapbooks that they made with all their pictures. Some of which I had to take a picture of here to include on the blog.

Camp Buckaroo will definitely be our yearly summer tradition now! All three of us will count down til next year!

About us: I’m the divorced single mom of my darling twin girls Keagan and Riley. Keagan is a spunky, smart and fun girl who keeps life exciting. And Riley is Special Needs with an emphasis on special! She has many medical challenges, 19 diagnoses’s in fact, including Cerebral Palsy, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Polymicrogyria, Epilepsy and Asthma. But she is one incredible girl-they both are! I think I’m the luckiest mom in the world! Follow me here – http://bloomwhere.blogspot.com/

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