Tag Archives: friendship

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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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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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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