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Camping With Compassion

Camp ReCreation is a week long summer camp at Eagle Lake outside of Lassen National Forest for people who have a wide range of disabilities (and abilities!) Camp Rec’s mission is to “strive to increase the awareness and acceptance of persons with developmental disabilities throughout the greater community,” and they do just that through camp songs, […]

Camp ReCreation is a week long summer camp at Eagle Lake outside of Lassen National Forest for people who have a wide range of disabilities (and abilities!) Camp Rec’s mission is to “strive to increase the awareness and acceptance of persons with developmental disabilities throughout the greater community,” and they do just that through camp songs, memories, and safe spaces that allow campers and counselors to be the most authentic version of themselves.

I went this summer, and when telling people about it, I don’t know where to begin because words can’t do the experience justice. Each counselor is paired with a camper for the week to build a friendship and help them have the best week possible.

For the campers, this week is something they look forward to all year and is their vacation. There are different planned activities throughout the day that include sports, arts, and canoeing at the lake. At night, there are special activities that include a carnival, talent show, and on the last day, a dance. 

Caroline with a new friend she met at camp.

Caroline Leonard (’21) went to camp this summer for the first time, but was a little apprehensive going. She was nervous at the start of camp, but immediately realized it was going to be an amazing week.

“[Camp Rec] made me a more compassionate person and have more understanding, patience, and love for people,” she said. “It might be a step out of your comfort zone, but I promise you will not regret going.”

Ben Delfino (’21) also had an amazing week at Camp and says he can’t imagine not going back.

“It is truly a community — you create such a unique bond that ultimately becomes a family you will have for the rest of your life,” he says. “It’s tiring, but the type of tiring where you are so content and always want to go back.”

Kennedy Earley ‘19 has been going to Camp ReCreation for the past three years, going on four this summer. She always makes sure to not plan anything and be in town for the week of camp. If you’ve ever talked to her and Camp has come up, you would know she could go on about it for hours.

“Camp Rec is truly the happiest place on earth and anyone who goes will tell you that. It’s a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with people you might not typically interact with. Campers have become some of my best friends and have given me joy I’ve found nowhere else.”

Camp was life changing for both Whitney Hunt (‘20) and Ainsley Carroll (‘20), going as far as to say that it was the best week of their life.

“It opens up your whole world and changes you,” Ainsley says. “The people there are genuinely the happiest and carefree people, and they have so many things they could be down about, but they aren’t. They are the most fun people and don’t see their situation as unfortunate.” 

Whitney Hunt and Anna Vishaj having a blast with their campers.

I can attest that it really is a transforming week. The time I was able to spend with these amazing people showed me that we all have unique gifts and challenges, but the desire to belong and be accepted is universal. There will always be situations that we don’t have control over, but we do have control of our perspective. Happiness can be found regardless of circumstances, but simply through appreciation of being alive. Fitting in is overrated, and it is easy to get wrapped up in the superficial things in life. We must remind ourselves what is truly important. At camp, all judgments get left behind and everyone is seen as valuable and unique and having something important to add to our world.

A camper in my cabin named Jackie summed up the essence of camp perfectly.

“Each and every one of us are all so individual. There’s no one like yourself, there’s nobody else that’s just like you. It really is so cool, so just be yourself.”

To find out more about Camp ReCreation and how to sign up for a week in 2020 visit https://www.camprecreation.org

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