Tag Archives: friends

Camp Growth and Graduation

Abby and Lexi at Camp Smiles

The following Camp Smiles graduation speech was given by Lexi D., a longtime Easter Seals Greater Houston volunteer, to her amazing camper buddy Abby H.!

“Abby, (also known to her fans as lode runner red) you’ve been in my cabin before, but this was the first time I had the honor to be your buddy. I was already excited for camp but the moment I saw you when you arrived you embraced me with the biggest hug and the brightest smile not even a mask could hide. In that moment my heart was full and I knew this was going to be an amazing weekend both of us would never forget.

We went on countless missions as lode runner red and her trusty side kick lode runner blue finding all the force fields around camp and unlocking them with our handy wrist bands, along with many other side quests. You continuously color the world with your creativity and bring joy to everyone you come across. You truly do not meet a stranger and you greet everyone with kindness. The world needs more lode runners like you. As you level up out of camp you will continue to amaze everyone around you because you are, as you told me to describe you: cute, adorable and great at digging holes. I can’t wait to see what your future holds, just this weekend you blew me away with how brave and enthusiastic you were. You welcomed every challenge with a smile and you were the first one to volunteer for each activity. You even held a bearded dragon for the first time and immediately declared that you definitely need one at home. Your fearless personality truly inspires me, and I know you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m so proud of you and I feel incredibly lucky that I have seen you blossom into the amazing person you are over the past years. Thank you for being my camp buddy this weekend but more importantly thank you for being my best lode runner friend for life. I love you!”

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s inclusive and fun Camp Programs available for children, teens, young adults, veterans and families!

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Camp is the Place for All of Us

The following is the Fall Camp Smiles graduation speech written by Lindsay, a long-time camp volunteer and former Easter Seals Greater Houston intern, to her camper, Abbey, a long-time camper at Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo. This speech warmed our hearts!

“Abbey Rav, where to even start.  I’ve been struggling for a little while now to know where to even begin with this speech.  First and foremost, its insane to me that we’re actually standing here today and that you are now graduating camp. Seriously, where did the time go? I swear it was just yesterday that I met you and your wonderful family at Camp Smiles orientation.  Speaking of Camp Smiles orientation, something that I think sums you up well is this little story. We’re gonna throw it back to summer 2018, you showed up to orientation with long hair and arrived at camp 14 days later with a new haircut. One that your mom made sure to inform me, you cut yourself… If this doesn’t sum you up, I don’t know what does. Just like your hair, you like to keep life exciting and that is something I love about you. I hope you never ever lose that light within you that allows you to love others and love life so much.

Talk about loving life… Do you remember the first night of camp our very first year? It was a carnival in the pavilion and you ate 5 servings of cotton candy. I honestly have no idea how I ever got you to fall asleep that night, but I think I sat on your bed telling you the same bedtime stories about Timmy the Mouse that my dad used to tell me when I was little. Pretty sure that night must’ve been when you decided camp is the place for you, and I honestly think that same night is when I decided this is the place for me. As a lot of people know, this place holds a very special place in my heart. At this point, loving camp has become a personality trait of mine. However, an important thing to note is that my reason for loving this place so much is the campers. You being the very first camper that created that love for me. Abbey Rav you will always be “my camper” even long after you graduate today.

Our time as buddies looked a little different than most pairings around here go, but I can say I wouldn’t have traded our friendship over the last four years for the world. In 2018, I was your buddy. In 2019, I was the intern, so we were at camp together, but I wasn’t in your cabin. In 2020, well, we all know what happened in 2020. In 2021, I had the privilege of cabin leading your family as Camp For All staff during Smiles Family Camp. And now, here we are full circle, buddies once again!  I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve experienced camp together in so many ways but here we are, right back where we started. I want you to know that even though you are graduating today, I will always be here for you, and I hope that you are in my life for so many years to come.

You have grown into such a helpful, kind, and joyful person and I am so blessed that you are a part of my life. The three adjectives I just listed are not something I take lightly, so I want to expand a little bit on each. Helpful. If you know Abbey, you know she is always looking for ways to help. Whether that is holding the door open for your cabin or walking up another volunteer and asking if there’s any way you can help out or simply offering to take other’s trays at the end of a meal. Know that your actions do not go unnoticed. Kind. Abbey is kind to everyone she meets. Always asking if others are okay and checking in on her fellow campers is something Abbey does without ever being asked. A true heart of gold in this respect. Lastly, joyful. Abbey, you sincerely radiate so much light and joy in literally all that you do. Your smile and laugh are both contagious and you never fail to brighten my day. I am so proud of how much you’ve grown and I cannot wait to continue to watch you grow.

Last night, Abbey and I were talking at dinner and she was telling me that she tried out another camp a few years ago, but it wasn’t for her. She said she didn’t fit in at said other camp and I quote, “This place is where I fit in. It’s good for me. I maybe even wanna be a counselor one day.”  Personally, I like this aspiration a whole lot. Keep dreaming big and finding the places and people that are good for you sweet Abbey. I know that there is so much left in store for you and I cannot wait to see what your future holds. I love you!”

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s inclusive and fun Camp Programs!

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The Amazing Adult Program

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s program for Young Adults with Disabilities have been winding down with summer and looking forward to fall activities. We are keeping our virtual hangouts fun by bringing back our activity bags which will support the theme of the day. The Young Adults with Disabilities Program will be keeping some of our favorite classes like dance, drama and music but we will also be adding life skills classes like cooking courses with a trained chef. How cool?! We are really looking forward to the day that we can be together again but in the meantime, we will be making “Beautiful Friendship Bracelets” to remind us that we are not alone, we are in this together and we will be together as soon as it is safe. Our volunteers have been OUTSTANDING as well planning bag pick ups and distributions. They have also been key players in brainstorming a safe reintegration when the time comes. Finally, Hurricane Ida has affected some family members of our group so we will be completing our first Adults With Disabilities Program service project, partnering with Easter Seals Louisiana to get essential items to our neighbors. Talk about a big, warm hug from a distance! We are so proud of our crew as they continue to stay strong, stay healthy and support each other.

Easter Seals Greater Houston offers two Adult Day Programs that take place twice a week. We provide a safe environment for adults to socialize with one another and participate in activities enjoyed by all adults. If you would like to join our programs for Adults with Disabilities, click here to learn more or please contact Kim at khartgraves@eastersealhouston.org for more details.

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Back to School, Back to Fun!

It’s been a great start to the 2021-2022 school year at The Caroline School! Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Caroline School provides unique educational services to meet the physical, social and cognitive needs of individuals ages 0-21 with multiple disabilities, including those who have additional medical needs. Our students learn and grow so much while also having fun with their peers. Check out some of our back to school highlights!

Our students have enjoyed our new activities, seeing old friends and meeting two new friends! Welcome to The Caroline School Aidan and AJ! We are loving getting to know our new students and working towards their goals.

Classroom 1 is learning about Technology – new and old! They love taking pictures and exploring cell phones.

AJ is curious about the Technology lesson.

Classroom 2 created a Summer Adventures PowerPoint! Students used their communication devices, voices, and assistive technology to talk about their summer stories with their friends.

Melanie shares her pictures from summer

We believe that with love, patience, and the right amount of accommodations, EVERY child can learn incredible things. The Caroline School’s low teacher to student ratio allows for students with multiple disabilities and medical needs to receive the care and personalized instruction they need to help them reach their goals. We would love to add new friends to our classes! To learn more visit CarolineSchool.org.

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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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Growth During the Pandemic

Hello, my name is Teresa G. I attend Easter Seals Greater Houston’s LEAD Adult Program weekly throughout the year. Since COVID, we have been meeting online through Zoom. Here are a few reasons why I like to attend the virtual programs:  I like the LEAD virtual program for various reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is it allows me to share my life experience as a person living with a disability with other LEAD Adult Program participants.  The participants that attend the LEAD Adult Program are all at different stages in life.  As a long time member of the LEAD Adult Program I can share my ideas and wisdom with my LEAD community.

During this COVID experience, the LEAD virtual program has provided members with a sense of normalcy and continuity which is very much needed during this uncertain time.  An added blessing to having the LEAD Adult Program go online is that the shy quiet members of the LEAD Adult Program have discovered they have a voice.  They have been working extremely hard to overcome their shyness and speech difficulties to be heard over Zoom.  The improved communication and social skills among all the LEAD members has been a beautiful thing to witness.

I have also noticed LEAD members becoming more comfortable with using technology across other forums such as Facebook and Messenger.  Easter Seals Greater Houston is important because it has programs that are unique for adults with disabilities.  The LEAD Adult Program is unique because it encourages peer groups to come up with creative solutions to life problems.  The facilitators and volunteers at Easter Seals Greater Houston work extremely hard to foster a sense of independence among its members. They provide LEAD members with tools and supplies such as event planners, access to information, computer apps, and ways to handle emergency procedures when we socialize as individuals or in groups independently outside of Easter Seals.  Programs such as LEAD and BridgingApps are unique to Easter Seals Greater Houston and that is why I think Easter Seals Greater Houston is an important part of the larger community.

Signed,
Teresa G.
Easter Seals Greater Houston LEAD Participant

Learn more about our LEAD Adult Program and other services for adults with disabilities.

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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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Breaking the Language Barrier

IMG_0522The following was written by our School Director about Yousif, a student that is thriving thanks to the individualized education he receives at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s the Caroline School.

Yousif is such a joy to have in the Caroline School. At the beginning of the school year he was very shy and did not speak much, as he is an English language learner. As the year went on, his language skills improved and he was able to say all the names of his peers and his teachers, as well as asking questions and telling stories every one could understand. He also built great relationships with his classmates, enjoying pretend play and coloring with them. We are so proud of your communication progress, Yousif!

Tabitha Hernandez, The Caroline School Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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The Caroline School is now enrolling for the 2018-2019 school year. Join this incredible community focused on helping students of all ability levels ages 0-21 reach their highest potential. Our School Director, Tabitha Hernandez, would love to share with you the resources and opportunities your child would have at The Caroline School. Please feel free to contact her at 713-838-9050 ext. 362 or THernandez@eastersealshouston.org. You can also learn more at www.CarolineSchool.org.

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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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