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Thanks for saying yes.

August 14, 2012 by Tim

After volunteering with our therapeutic summer camps, I felt particularly grateful for all of our staff who make this life-changing place possible. I shared the following words with our recreation therapy summer staff at their closing banquet last Wednesday night.

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“It is an amazing place to be somewhere you don’t get told ‘no’ or ‘you can’t do that.’ I have a different outlook on life.”

A Venture camper told me this about camp over Facebook chat last week. Several campers friended me on Facebook after I volunteered with Venture, and the number of times they talk to me reminds me that Bradford Woods is not only important to our campers for the week or two they are on property; Bradford Woods is important to their entire life.

For those of you who I haven’t met officially, my name is Olivia and I work full-time in the Retreats department.  I was also born with cerebral palsy.  Even before I started volunteering with summer camp, I knew Bradford Woods was the most amazing place I had ever worked.  My coworkers dragged me through a cave when I became exhausted during a teambuilding trip, and walked with me up Cardiac Hill when I wanted to experience Challenge Day first-hand.  But I’d never felt more grateful to work here than when I went to Venture prom and took in the scene of our campers being normal teenagers, not worrying about standing out or being different, and the smiles on your faces and enthusiasm in your interpretive dance moves matching theirs.

Our accessible facilities are fantastic, but what truly makes the difference at Bradford Woods are the wonderful people who work here.  It wouldn’t be as fun to climb the alpine tower if no one was at the top cheering you on.  The amphitheater would be boring if no one was there to lead ditties.  And campers wouldn’t leave Bradford Woods feeling quite as confident and empowered if they hadn’t been surrounded by cheerful people who told them, “Yes, you can do that.  I believe in you.”

You all amaze me.  I was only with campers for about two weeks over the entire summer, and that made me tired.  Yet you did it day after day, for ten weeks straight, and always had smiles, patience, and positive words to spare.  You’ve heard it a lot already this summer, but I just wanted to say thank you.  Thank you for every banana boat, because one of my campers said that she never gets dessert at her foster home.  Thank you for shaving your head, because my friend’s brother was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year.  Thank you for every theatre game, every coffee house, every time you walked beside a camper up Cardiac Hill or danced with them just because.  Thank you for treating my peers as equals and showing them that they can push beyond society’s low expectations of people with disabilities and accomplish anything, because they don’t see that often enough.  Thank you for saying “yes” to our campers this summer.  They will be better people and have better lives because of you, and so will I.

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