When I go to a swimming pool, I am that different guy. Sitting on the ground after popping off my legs and hopping along on my arms, I cannot help but be self-conscious. I clearly remember the first day, after nearly 3 months (aka- eternity) in the hospital, out and about in my car with hand controls. Straight to the hardware store I went, out to do whatever with my regained independence. There was a moment when I wheeled into the large establishment that it hit me, how I must look. A legless dude, sitting in a wheelchair trying to get along as normally as possible, yet looking can't-help-but-notice peculiar. There was a real sense of pride when I realized it simply didn't bother me enough to keep me from going and doing whatever I needed or wanted to do. There's been a lot of those moments in my life. It feels good and right - to push out concerns of other's perceptions or my own discomfort with who I am. This has absolutely allowed me to enjoy life more.
That's why, when my sister Bianca suggested to me, "Let's volunteer at the Amputee Youth Camp", I was in. Not only did it mean so much to me that she wanted to be involved, but it made perfect sense to me - being an amputee (while escaping this added complication while traversing adolescence) I could understand how much this opportunity could mean to the kids.
Last summer we went to Camp Joy and took part in an absolutely amazing experience that has us both totally committed to this cause and eager to not only go back to camp but to try our best to make sure that all kids with limb loss or limb difference can attend. I wish you all could experience it but I'll just take a shot at providing a glimpse:
Think of me, an adult trying to get a workout at a local pool and worrying about self image and the logistics of it all, coping pretty well but having a good deal of life experience to aide in that effort. Now imagine a 10 year old, at the pool, surrounded by 100 other swimmers that all live their daily lives confronting similar issues in mobility, inhibition, and a whole host of other small and large issues that other people simply aren't aware of. That's one example of what camp offers.
My hope is that every single child who has lost a limb to trauma, disease, or was born with a limb difference, gets to come to this camp to learn, try new things, and share experiences with those who understand. Camp and all travel expenses for the kids are paid for by the Amputee Coalition. The facilities are excellent. I've been to summer camps as a kid and this still felt like camp. While being accessible to every camper, nothing is too easy. Getting around camp takes effort and creativity. The Camp provides an atmosphere for positive growth and gives the children (and volunteers) an amazing outlook for their daily lives. It is truly inspirational; it made me want to live better and do more.
My sister's Birthday is Saturday. She has made it her wish this year to raise $34,000 to help get kids to camp. Please give a little, it will go directly to camp and it will do a lot!