Tag Archives: Camp

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News, Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Latest News

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/

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

“I Kinda Like Camp”

After spending my summer at Easter Seals, I don’t think I could clearly explain what the camp intern’s job intern picactually is. It does, however, consist of: silly-voice storytelling, funny dance choreography, mustaches, crazy hats, paparazzi-level photography, dirty laundry patrol, coveted golf-cart keys, a bit of goofiness, and a lot of love. I applied just looking for a job, and I had seen Betsy, Lindsey, and Margaret intern before me, so I knew how it worked. But being camp intern is so much more than what everyone sees. It’s witnessing over 200 kids accepted for who they are despite physical and mental differences. Camp has this crazy effect on people. It allows you to be who you truly are behind masks and insecurities.

There’s one unforgettable conversation I had with a Camp Smiles camper that I would like to share. His first summer at camp, he wouldn’t even let Betsy announce his name at orientation. Every activity made him nervous and hesitant. It seemed like he didn’t want to be there despite our encouragement. But on the last night, at the back of the dining hall during karaoke, that camper came up to me and shyly said, “Sarah, I gotta tell you, I think I kinda like camp.” More than any speech, gesture, or ceremony – that short, whispered sentence was the summation of my summer. Moments like that are why this is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Easter Seals really affects lives, including mine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Launching in to Summer and Summer Camps!

This is an excerpt from one of our Camp Coordinator’s email for Walk With Me to raise funds through our amazing betsycurrent and past camp volunteers!
“To my incredible Camp Smiles 2014 volunteers who I already love and adore so much!! Like really….I cannot tell you how much camp means to me, so the fact that you will be a part of it this year, means that YOU mean so much to me too.  It would mean the world to me if you would join me on April 26th at the Houston Zoo to start to get to know each other AND help support the incredible children we serve at camp. Camp Smiles means THE WORLD to our kids, but some of them cannot afford camp tuition. Through Walk With Me, we can provide the financial assistance they need to get to come to camp!! betsy 3Please please please consider joining me at the zoo to help support the awesome kids we serve. If we would all join, and raise just $50 for our kids, we would exceed our goal!!! Please consider joining or making a donation. Every little bit counts.  You all are just wonderful for having a desire to serve these children!! 

Take a look at some of the essays our kids are writing for scholarships this summer….please help us answer their call.

“Everyone at camp sees ME. They get to know ME. They listen and respond to ME. And having cerebral palsy is such a small part of what makes up ME but sometimes people outside of camp act like that one little thing is all of me.”betsy 2

“What camp means to me is not just a place where there is tons of fun activities to do, but also a place where if you’re different it doesn’t matter because you’re surrounded by a whole group of people who are different just like you. It’s okay to be different, you’re not alone. Your difference doesn’t define who you are. You can still have friends, be happy, and enjoy the same kind of activities here that you would enjoy at other camps.”

So excited to let you know that they raised close to $6,000 and the event has raised over $224,000! So as we head into summer and our 7 weeks of day and away camp, know that we are serving over 300 children with disabilities who are going to be rock climbing, hanging out with firemen, swimming, learning about the great outdoors, animals and on and on!  You can check out the line up. On another note excited to let you know that our camps are full and we are fully staffed with volunteers! Yippee!

Betsy Wechter, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Camp & Adult Program Coordinator

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News