On December 1 every year, we recognize World AIDS Day. Today I want to talk about an organization that is close to my heart. It has changed who I am today. It lead me to become a teacher so I could work with kids year round. It is a part of me. Camp Amerikids is a part of The ELM Project. The mission of the camp is to provide a week-long residential camp experience for children in our area who are living with HIV and Sickle Cell Disease. The program is completely free of charge for the campers. As you think about the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on the world, please consider what you can do to get involved. Donating your time is free, and bound to change everyone’s world for the better. -Abby
For the past 13 years of my life since I graduated from college, I have volunteered at a summer camp. Like any “camp person” can understand, I am attached to my camp, my campers and my co-staff members. We are a family who lives in a special bubble in the world for just one week a year. No matter what is going on in the real world, we can find comfort and be our true selves at camp. Camp makes you try new things (like boating and climbing the tower!), accept certain things that you can’t change (the food!) and make friends with people who you might not be friends with in your everyday life. Over the years it has opened my heart and has become a great escape.
Then I had kids. What would happen to camp?! When my first son was born in May of 2010, I knew that I couldn’t go to camp that summer. I would be nursing, not sleeping, and of course, I would never want to leave my newborn baby! Camp was a thing of the past. Wrong. I quickly discovered that although all of those things were true, I still had a strong desire to go to camp. I just couldn’t figure out why. A visit would have to do. It was fun to show off Baby Ben with my camp family on that visit – it was as if our camp family was growing – everyone said that they couldn’t wait until he was old enough to be a camper himself. I left that visit feeling sad that I wasn’t staying.
The next summer, I was torn. Return to camp and leave my 1-year-old in the capable hands of my husband and daycare teachers? Or stay home with him? After many heart to heart conversations with my husband, I decided that it was finally OK to leave. He would be well taken care of and the chances are that I would miss him more than he would miss me. I took the plunge and drove the one hour to camp. I won’t lie – I cried a lot when I left. BUT, the next day when camp got into full swing, I was right there everyone else, singing camp songs and happy to be back in the comfortable bubble of camp. I was happy to be “Abby” and not “mom” for a week. I hadn’t experienced that in over a year. It was good to be back! I knew that I would go back to my normal life soon, so I soaked in every minute of camp that year. And when our second son came along in June 2012, I took him on a visit to camp knowing that I would return the following year in full swing.
Every summer I think about leaving the boys and what that means for everyone. Is it selfish of me to leave? How much will my kids be impacted by my absence? What about my husband? Every summer I think that I should stay home and be with the boys. But my commitment pushes me to go. And every summer, I am so happy that I do. When I come home I am refreshed from the joy that camp brings me. I feel like I have expanded my worldview, made connections with kids who can use a strong adult leader in their lives and worked with other adults that I don’t get to work with throughout the school year.
Who knows how long it will last? Next summer after Ben completes kindergarten, there won’t be an option for daycare, but I am already thinking about ways for him to stay busy that week – perhaps a camp?!
Is anyone else out there a camp person?