My Faith In Humanity, Restored In Two Days
One thing I love about working as Creative Director at Women Online is that so much of our work is mission driven. I get to live, brainstorm, and create in the sweet intersection that is the Internet and my passion for making positive change in the world.
And one of my most impacting experiences to date happened two weeks ago at the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Summer Camp. MDA Summer Camp provides thousands of kids with muscular dystrophy and related muscle-debilitating diseases “the best week of the year.” MDA hosts nearly 75 weeklong summer camps across the country — offered at no charge to families. Kids have the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie and adventures that every kid wants to enjoy at camp. Here’s a quick snapshot of MDA Summer Camp:
I’ve been working closely with MDA on their #LiveUnlimited campaign -- which is all about transforming perceived limits into unlimited possibilities to live life to the fullest -- for about four months and it was pretty incredible to see my vision of bringing online influencers to camp come to life. I’m not going to lie -- personally, it was a CRAZY week. My first mission was to safely get Vera Sweeney, Audrey McClelland, Jessica Ashley, Ellen Seidman, Wendi Aarons, and Jen Reeves to a camp outside of Chicago on Tuesday. My second mission was to safely get Laura Mayes, Denene Milner, Jill Krause, and Matthew Turner to a camp outside of Atlanta on Thursday. (The getting people places safely mission was derailed only by a dreadful case of stomach bug for one attendee.) I learned to drive giant SUVs like a boss. I spent a lot of time in and out of airports. I pored endlessly over my meticulously detailed run of show. I sent a lot of “Have you arrived safely? Love, Mother Hen” texts. I ate a lot of bananas.
And I smiled and laughed a lot. Because here’s the thing. MDA Summer Camp changed me. It restored my faith in humanity. Here’s why:
It reminded me of how universal childhood joys are. I saw many fun camp activities going down (e.g., horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, archery, etc.) and got to witness this boy catch a fish for the first time.
I saw love and patience as challenges were faced. I watched several kids slowly ascend this tower -- a couple by stairs and one by lift. One boy zip lined for the first time to great hoot and holler, another ascended but couldn’t make it off the ledge. Every step of each kid’s journey was met with love and patience by the counselors on site.
I learned that power soccer is a seriously, kick ass thing.
I was reminded of how critical it is to be with a tribe of people who understand what you’re going through. And that accepting yourself makes you an even more awesome tribe member.
I saw how friends can awesomely enable one other to do great things. These three counselors are nursing school friends who heard a presentation about volunteering at MDA Summer Camp and decided to do it together, even though it meant missing a week of school and work. They were brimming with excitement and cheer and said they couldn’t wait to return as counselors next year. Across the board, all of the counselors I met were amazing -- several I talked to had stumbled into the role as a way to take care of college volunteer credits and fell in love with MDA; it wasn’t uncommon to meet counselors who had served for 10+ summers. We even met a counselor who married someone she met at camp!
It reminded me that you can be of service at any time. These two lovely nurses were in their 1st and 30th years of services. I literally bowed down to them as I was leaving the facility.
It gave me perspective about my life as a parent of two kids where the biggest health concern is Violet’s allergies to mangoes, cashews, and whole milk. The reality is that many kids at MDA Summer Camp are going through a lot of physical challenges. It’s not easy, but they are rocking it.
It reminded me of how very important it is to live without limits and just try every day. And that mistakes are an important part of the journey.
You may not know anyone with a muscle-debilitating disease but I assure you -- you would be delighted to know all of the children, counselors, and staff that I met a couple of weeks ago. You may even feel compelled to join them in an Emergency Dance Party (this is a real thing, you guys). The people I met at these two MDA camps are the joy and hope and awesomeness that keep the world moving forward when everything else seems completely crappy. Here are some ways you can help:
- Create a #LiveUnlimited image at mda.org/LiveUnlimited. For each image shared through July 31, a generous sponsor is donating $5 to MDA, up to $30,000, to support research, programs and services like MDA Summer Camp.
- Support MDA families and programs like Summer Camp by buying a Live Unlimited bracelet from Endorphin Warrior -- $6 from the sale of each bracelet goes directly to MDA to help kids like those I met at Summer Camp.
- Support MDA Summer Camp by making a donation at mda.org. Remember when I said that MDA makes Summer Camp free to families? That costs $2,000 per camper and they raise that money through donations and corporate sponsorships.
- Volunteer your time -- you could help with office jobs, at a special event, via community outreach, or at Summer Camp. I saw Jon for approximately two hours between travel for the two different camps and the first words out of my mouth were, “Babe, I think we need to find a way to be MDA Summer Camp counselors...how old do you think Violet needs to be before we can go do that?”