Elaine’s Sermon – closing service 2008:
"If I had one wish for everyone here, it would be that as you leave today – not only remember both the sad and good times, the uniquess of each other, but most importantly that we are all the same in God's eyes."
Riding my scooter down the wandering path, I can't help but remember how my being here came about. Feeling a little sad as I reflect back on the days gone by, but feeling excited about what's to come. Learning to look beyond the obvious and learning to love what's underneath the outside.
A simple following of links from the Cursillo online newsletter would eventually lead me to this place. Reading about Camp Able and then filling out the application were the easy parts. The hard part began after receiving an acceptance email from a person named Father Kyle.
Excitement and anticipation of the week built along with worrying about if the “younger generation” would be able to see beyond the broken down, fat, old lady who rides on a scooter. Me, a loving and caring person who once led a very full and exciting life until the horrible and debilitating disease of Transverse Myelitis attacked my body on Christmas Eve Day in 2002.
Finally the week of camp is here. Confusion, excitement,wonder and anticipation of these next 5 days; not knowing what to expect, but needing to remind myself to let go and let GOD control what experiences I will have during the week. Learning that each and everyone of us is unique in our own way. Some malfunctioning bodies, others with malfunctioning brains and some with both, but all are the same in the eyes of GOD. Camp Able is the one place where the only barriers that exist are the ones we place there ourselves. My biggest goal to accomplish at camp was to awake up my disabled body in which I had allowed myself to become a prisoner and recluse in my own apartment.
Arrival jitters are there as I arrive at DaySpring and Camp Able, but are quickly squashed as the Counselors arrive at my car and calling me by name. I knew I'd come to the right place when I'm met by a priest wearing a Hawaiian print shirt-clerical collar and all. Formalities quickly put aside, LET THE FUN BEGIN! My fear of being accepted on this first day is hard to put aside. Why would people unknown to me, be willing to accept me. Letting my protective walls down with some trepidation allowed me to let others know the person inside my body.
Quickly we meet Curious and Curiously Curious George and the MAN IN THE YELLOW HAT. Off to dinner, a safari and the pool, then back at the pavilion there's a story with milk and cookies and finally it's bedtime. Gentle persuasion from staff had me back in the pool, laughing aloud and seeing people for themselves and not the labels I use to put on them. When I get beyond the physical being, I get to know a little bit about each individual.
Anticipation of things to come is very high. Scared of the Ropes Course, will I allow myself to accept the challenge? The thought of Thursday saddens me when I think about camp ending. However, happiness fills me when I remind myself that it's just the start of camp and there's a lot more to come before the final good bye on Thursday.
The following days are filled with numerous activities from swimming in the pool, fishing and canoeing to conquering the ZIP LINE on the Ropes Course. The zip line brings out many fears in both counselors and campers, but each one faces their fear in one way or the other. Evenings are filled with something different and fun every night from swimming and a carnival to a Christmas Dance on the final night.
Wednesday, the final full day of camp, ends with the dance. Following dinner the girls are working on looking their best and will dance the night away with the boys. Sitting and watching the smiles on all the faces and recognizing the growth in everyone. Curious George Awards are given to everyone which recognizes something unique in each camper.
It may take awhile to process all that has taken place, remembering both good and bad and trying to figure out how I can do things differently if I return next year. Saying good-bye is always so hard to do especially when you never know when you might meet again.
In just a little bit everyone will go their own way- some with obvious smiles while other's smiles are deep inside. I'll head back to Tampa and sit in my recliner with my cats, while drinking a latte – smiling, laughing and remembering camp. Feeling so blessed to have met so many unique, wonderful and beautiful people. If I had one wish for everyone here, it would be that as you leave today – not only remember both the sad and good times, the uniquess of each other, but most importantly that we are all the same in God's eyes.
Camper's Uncle Bob: "Dear Camp-Able, and Staff - My Nephew is Patrick Smith, (I'm his Uncle Bob, A.K.A. Coco Pop), and my Brother-in Law Billy was kind enough to forward your Website to me. I am very impressed and humbled to see what you are doing not only with Patrick, but with the many others that have special needs. Your Organization is truly Blessed. Keep up your wonderful doings thru Strength in our Lord God Jesus Christ! Best Regards - Bob Noone."
Camper, LeQuina Knox: “Camp Able was a chance to have fun and make new friends."
Staff Member, Connor Milstead: “I found out more things about myself, and I’ve seen a lot of things in these children that I don’t see in other kids. I wouldn’t use the word ‘normal’ because these kids are normal.”
Staff Member, Luke Gautier: “At a young age, I was introduced to people with disabilities, and I immediately had a connection with them, I always felt comfortable around them; this is my life and my job.”
Camp Director, Fr Kyle: It’s an opportunity for me to discover the richness in the diversity of human beings and for high school kids to learn about serving ministries. “Folks with disabilities are the one group of people that are still marginalized in a world that talks about worth.”