therapy dogs break the silence
Diane Rich, a certified dog trainer, runs a unique pet therapy program at Camp Korey in Washington. She shares her story with us.
Childhood illnesses affect children in various ways. For some of our campers, their condition limits their ability to
move and verbally communicate. Matthew, pictured above, was born with mitochondrial disease. This condition impacts
children differently with mild to severe symptoms, including loss of muscle coordination and strength; vision, speech and hearing problems; and
severe seizures. However, the sensation of touch has been observed to be beneficial for children with this illness.
While children with mitochondrial disease can participate in various sessions at camp, Camp Korey in Washington offers a unique Pet Therapy
Program that has a huge benefit to children like Matthew. These special dogs sense the needs of those afflicted with various medical conditions,
bringing joy and unconditional love to everyone they visit. They actually seem to be able to break through the secret silence.
arrived by wheelchair with his nurse and counselor to one of Camp Korey’s pet therapy sessions. Due to his condition, Matthew’s eyes are closed
for a good portion of the day, but that doesn’t prevent him from having fun in all camp activities. When he came to the pet therapy activity
area, he was helped out of his wheelchair and onto a blanket in the grass. One by one, each therapy dog took turns lying down on the blanket next
to him. When Matthew's hand or arm was placed next to each of the dogs, he opened his eyes, keeping them open for extended periods of time. His
excitement was present and felt by everyone around. “This is a dramatic response for Matthew. It was the longest period of time that he had gone
seizure-free that week,” said his camp counselor.
Do therapy pets bring something special to camp? You bet! This wonderful experience
combined with special canine friends help to break the silence for those unable to verbally communicate.
a camper’s dream to fly
Camp is about making anything possible. This is the story of a former camper who simply wanted to fly.
There once was a bright-eyed 9-year-old girl who came to camp with her sights set high.
All day she zipped around the cabins sporting a set of toy butterfly wings that she hoped could one day make her fly. And at night, while tucked in her bunk bed, she dreamt of those shimmering wings fluttering in the sky.
Though she soared in her dreams, real life was not always so free. An illness left one side of her body partially paralyzed, making even the most routine things a challenge. Things we take for granted, like walking, were not always comfortable. Running, skipping, and jumping were just out of her reach.
Yet, despite these obstacles most children never have to face, this little girl’s spirit knew no bounds. And her zest for life and giant ambitions inspired everyone around her – especially her counselors, who all wanted to make her dreams come true.
So one afternoon, they brought her to the camp’s gym with a well thought-out plan to help her skip rope. With the youngster strapped into a harness and wearing a helmet, a group of her counselors used a rope pulley to lift her up and down as a jump rope swished beneath her feet and over her head. As they picked up the pace, she beamed with excitement. For the first time in her life, this young girl was jumping rope like she saw her friends do at school. Just as she had always imagined. And while she loved every minute of it, the little girl wasn’t done yet.
Soon she shouted, “I want to fly, I want to fly!”
Her counselors, looking back at one another, decided to give it a shot.
They moved further back, grasping onto the ropes as the girl was lifted slowly, but surely, higher into the air. As she dangled about five feet off the ground, she shouted again. “I want to go higher!”
Feeding off of the camper’s own determination, the counselors kept lifting until soon the girl was nearly 18 feet in the air, moving up and down and twisting around as her little wings flapped in the air just like the butterfly she pictured in her dreams.
In that moment, the girl let out a shout filled with pure exhilaration. “I’m flying,” she shouted at the top of her little lungs. “I’m really flying!”
While she swung in the air, beaming with joy, her counselors’ eyes filled with tears of happiness. As they looked around them, they noticed a quiet group of onlookers had assembled, taking in the incredible feat they had all witnessed together.
There was a feeling in the air impossible to define. A truly special moment created by a group of caring counselors who wanted to make a child feel on top of the world.
A short time later, the group slowly brought the little camper to the ground as she wiggled with adrenaline and enthusiasm. The giddy girl swung her arms around her counselors to say thanks. And then, she took off like a flash to go back with her friends, energized by the realization that her illness couldn’t limit her and that anything was possible.
a volunteer’s letter of inspiration
This is a letter Flying Horse Farms received from Zak Grimm, one of their most active volunteers. Zak has cerebral palsy and didn’t have places like Flying Horse Farms to find refuge when he was growing up. He feels at home there now.
“For anyone who knows me, it’s no secret how I feel about camp. Flying Horse Farms is the reason why I can say this year has been the BEST of my 26. I know in my soul that I’ve had the time of my life making a difference for our campers in Mt. Gilead, Ohio.
It wasn’t always that simple or clear. In the beginning, I admit I wasn’t sure what would come of my time at camp. Would I be comfortable with so many people I didn’t know? Would I be comfortable with myself? Would I be able to actually do things at camp?
A year later, all of my apprehensions have since melted away. I have been completely transformed by my experiences at Flying Horse Farms. Not only did I do one or two things at camp; I did everything at camp—short of hopping in the pool and driving a golf cart.
As for meeting new friends, all the wonderful people I’ve met at camp have become my new brothers and sisters. Flying Horse Farms gave me the chance to be a part of the family, to make a difference—large or small—for our campers, and to be myself in the process. What makes me different outside of camp became virtually invisible within this fun, magical place, and no words can express how huge that was for me. I needed a place to truly belong, and I found it. Not only on the camp grounds, but in the overall life-changing experience of helping kids be kids, of giving them a chance to live in the moment, and giving their souls a place they can call home.
Ryan, our camp director, is totally right: the magic of camp never leaves us. It will never leave me, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where it takes me next season and for years to come.
And I’ll always remember where that magic came from.”
his own words: one counselor's unforgettable experience
Riccardo is a first time camp counselor at Dynamo Camp in Italy and a professional climbing trainer.
I’ve been teaching climbing for years. I’ve seen a lot of boys, girls, and people of all ages choose to face the vertical dimension. One morning at Dynamo Camp I saw something amazing. I saw the determination, will and strength of character of someone who would have probably wanted more from life and yet, notwithstanding everything, continues to love life deeply all the same.
I’ll never forget the doubts that were swirling around in my mind as I moved the wheelchair closer to the wall. Those moments were probably my most difficult climb. “I want to climb the wall,” she had announced to me in a strong, decisive tone. And so she did. When she stood up with an unstable equilibrium, she grabbed the first climbing hold and began to put her feet on the other holds. It was suddenly clear what sort of person I had in front of me.
I soon realized that those legs didn’t need me, fueled as they were by some exceptional sort of propellant made up of tenacity and determination. And so move after move, Linda shattered my fears. When she made it up to the top, she made her hands into fists, cried out for joy and then, turning towards me, smiled at me in a way that I’ll never forget.
once a camper, always a camper
Mamahao is a child that lives with a serious medical condition and also has a hearing impairment.
In December of 2010, Mamahao attended our Global Partnership Program at Camp Mamohato in Lesotho. During the first few days of camp, the counselors noted that she was very quiet and withdrawn and didn’t seem to be interested in joining the others in camp activities. Through the support of her counselors and encouragement from fellow campers, Mamahao’s confidence blossomed and by the end of day three, she was leading the group in song – yes, song! – and was fully participating in all aspects of camp.
Throughout the past two decades, we’ve witnessed this type of profound transformation over and over. And the beneficial effects last long after camp ends. As Paul Newman used to quote, “you can leave camp, but camp never really leaves you.” This was no different for Mamahao. Weeks after attending the program, her clinic counselor noticed dramatic positive changes in her behavior. She was interacting with other children, laughing and playing games…behaviors that Mamahao had never exhibited before camp. The clinic counselor was so impressed that she traveled to Camp Mamohato to share her observations with Selloane, one of the camp’s leaders. “Now I know that camp really works!” she said.