If you could spend a summer in the beauty of Kentucky, helping medically complex kids have the camping experience of a lifetime, would you go?
I ask because a few days ago, a staff recruiter for The Center for Courageous Kids put out a call on social media, asking for places he could visit to talk to college students, classes or groups for recruitment and outreach for the 2020 camp season.
While northern Pennsylvania and southern New York is a bit outside of the area where he is able to go, I jumped at the chance to bring the message of CCK to this region. First, let me explain that Logan Hatfield, staff recruitment and outreach coordinator for the camp for medically complex children, is one of the people who had a huge impact on my daughter Emily when she was a camper there.
She was shy; he was silly. She would distance herself; he would joke with her until she joined the group. She became overwhelmed one day at camp; he brought her an ice cream sandwich and talked to her until she laughed again.
While Logan himself was amazing, so were all of the counselors and staff at CCK. I could write for hours about the ways that these amazing people brought a summer camp experience to children like mine, who were perhaps too medically fragile to attend a “regular” camp.
The first year, I made the 10-hour drive with a bit of hesitancy, thinking we could always leave if it wasn’t what we hoped. At the end of the week, I cried at the thought of having to leave.
And I will tell you why.
If you’ve ever spent time around kids with medical conditions, you may have noticed they aren’t a jovial bunch as a rule. They aren’t usually loud, boisterous, adventurous or terribly outgoing.
By breakfast the second day of camp, these kids were dancing, singing, cheering, playing and being kids.
Not “the kid in the wheelchair” or “the kid who walks with a cane.” No, they were just kids. Their societal-defined labels went out the window.
For every hearty belly laugh from a child, there were happy tears from parents; parents who hadn’t heard that laughter in years. Parents who hadn’t seen their child let go of the “I can’ts” and embrace the “I can” spirit that the camp personifies.
Several times, I found myself visiting with one of the program counselors or den counselors — the folks who live in the lodge with the campers and serve as leader, supervisor and role model.
An amazing girl named Shelby was Emily’s counselor one year. They colored together, they talked, they laughed, they had fun. Shelby told me at the end of the week that she felt honored that we allowed her to be part of our experience.
I was stunned.
Here was this wonderful, kind, patient, amazing college student who spent her summer at this camp to bring an unforgettable experience to the campers. It hadn’t occurred to me that she would get something from it in return.
So if you know a college student, or a group at one of our fine universities in the region who wants to learn more about working at this amazing place, reach out. Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I would be happy to share any information I have, too.
The camp has summer jobs available to college students at least 19 years of age.
CCK is looking for folks who are passionate about working with children, especially those with different needs. Creative, hardworking, flexible and determined are important qualities in a counselor.
This is so much more than a summer job. While we were at camp, some parents were given a chance to give testimonials for a video that was being made. I can remember what I said: “Thank you for giving me my daughter back.”
I have dozens of lifelong friendships made at CCK. And more than anything else, the camp and its wonderful people will always hold a special place in my heart for giving us so much hope, love and acceptance.
And for giving these children a chance to be kids.
(Marcie Schellhammer is the Era’s assistant managing editor. She can be reached at email@example.com)