We live on a Christian Conference ground where hundreds of folks visit each week to camp. Lots of people love to camp during the summer. So, this week, I’d like to share with you a personal story of time we camped in 2009.
On a crisp winter evening, I sat down with my family at our dinner table and posed the question to my six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, “Kids, where would you like to go this year for our mission trip?”
Our youngest thought about it and suggested we help the disabled children at Camp Attitude.
“Great idea Alicia! What are your thoughts Austin?”
Our church trip the prior year to Tecate, Mexico building homes for the community was rewarding. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store this summer. I’d heard some amazing stories from other families who helped at Camp Attitude in the past.
Two weeks prior, all the volunteers met at our pastor’s house along to discuss plans. “Randy and Rebecca, your family will help the OI children next week. Don’t worry, there will be a full time nurse and physician on site.” What’s OI?
I learned OI is the acronym for Osteogenesis Imperfecta a.k.a. Brittle Bones Disease. These children’s have extremely fragile bones. Evidently, the year before, a young boy was rushed to the emergency room for a broken arm from falling off a picnic bench. Fortunately, the doctors placed a cast on his shattered bones and he returned to camp the same day ready to play. Intense!
The best part of camp is the campers attended for free. Also, most medical foundations paid for their travel expenses. For many parents and siblings, it is the only free to participate in extracurricular activities all year long. Otherwise, they are caring for their special needs child 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each family is a “Buddy” assigned to shadow their special needs child. This allows Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters freedom to raft, hike, fish, swim or simply rest.
The time arrived to head north. We scheduled two weeks to travel from our home in central California to Oregon which allowed for a visit with extended family before camp.
After six hours on the road, we settled in Medford to see my mother-in-law Dianna. We enjoyed chatting with Grandma poolside on a sweltering summer’s day while the kids splashed.
Two days later, we drove to West Linn to visit my brother-in-law and his young family. The cousins had a blast playing together. Their uncle from Woodinville, Washington joined us as well and a good time was had by all.
Three days later, we headed south to Foster. I didn’t know what to expect at camp, because we’d never been around children with disabilities before. We had open minds and willing hands.
Upon our arrival, we set up a ten person tent we borrowed from our friends. We left our twenty-six-foot trailer, complete with kitchenette and bathroom, behind this time. Sleeping in bags on the ground posed another a new experience for us. The kitchen chef discovered our rocky circumstance and offered her air mattresses. Ah, much better!
As we walked to the meeting barn, we noticed a chartered bus arriving with families. They came from the United States, Canada and Europe. The counselors welcomed them with shouts of cheer.
We joined the camp Director and she assigned our team’s daily chores which included cleaning the mess hall tables before and after meals, scraping plates, washing dishes and scrubbing bathrooms. Austin jumped up, “I’ll scrape the plates, Mom.”
“I’ll help you wash the dishes, Mommy,” chimed Alicia.
The Director then asked if anyone would be willing to haul the trash using their four wheel drive quad runner.
I sheepishly raised my hand, “I have a motorcycle license.”
“The job is yours,” she smiled.
I grabbed the keys, stepped outside and found a heap of waste and recycle.
We pitched the trash in the modified trailer. I fired it up and revved the engine. “Jump in family. We’re going for a ride.”
With Austin on my right fender, Alicia on my left and Randy sharing my seat, we made our rounds. Who knew collecting garbage could be so much fun!
The next day, while clearing tables, I saw Alicia pushing a little girl in a wheel chair on a special swing. She ran up to me, “Mom, I helped Rachel. She needed a push.”
“That’s awesome. Good job honey.”
On the last night of camp, we watched the children’s talent show. Tears filled my eyes as I delighted in watching the children perform and seeing my kids cheer on their new found friends.
When camp ended, the campers were bused to the nearest airport. Our team of eight volunteers was assigned one final task; to clean all the cabins and restrooms which had just accommodated 120 campers.
Five hours later, I emerged from the last cabin exhausted. It was painful, but well worth it.
I’m grateful my family and I were able to serve together at Camp Attitude. We met a lot nice people, learned about various disabilities and gave family members respite.
By serving as a family, I hope it will instill a core values to help others and they will continue the family tradition with their kids.
Does your family enjoy camping or serving? I’d love to hear about your adventures! Please share with us.