I worked at Double H Ranch running the adaptive outdoor adventure program this summer. The Double H Ranch is a camp in upstate New York for children with serious illnesses. All children with medically qualifying diagnoses and their siblings go free of charge. Double H serves children with neuromuscular disorders, cancer, sickle cell anemia, spina bifita, bleeding disorders, autoimmune disorders, mitochondrial disease, and collagen vascular disease. Camp is fully accessible and all activities are adapted for children of all cognitive and physical abilities. At HH, I ran the outdoor adventure program and was a cabin counselor as well.
While working at HH, I learned that we are all human. Everyone deserves love and attention and positive affirmation. Everyone deserves to be told that they are special, capable, strong, and deserving of love. When we are kind to one another great things happen. Less importantly, I also learned about many medical diagnoses, how to care for children with serious medical conditions, how to adapt activities so that everyone can participate, but these were not nearly as valuable as lessons in how to be a good human. I loved watching children who are constantly told that they can not do X because of their limitations be told that they CAN. I loved watching children be in a place where they are loved and accepted and seeing them thrive in that environment. I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to and it has made me a more independent person.
I formed relationships with my campers and my coworkers that were incredibly valuable in my transformation. Although more importantly, I had the privilege of watching my campers form relationships with one another. One session, I had a camper who could walk with some assistance without his wheelchair, at the cookout, he wanted to run around and play with everyone else, so I was supporting him and we were killing it. I looked over and noticed that one of my other campers that week was following us around with the camper I was helping’s wheelchair in case he got tired. My camper spent the entire play time following us with the chair just in case his friend got tired. These boys were 8 and 9 years old. It was amazing to see how much love children can show to children who are a little different from them.
I also was empowered by the relationships that I formed with my coworkers. I learned that I am self reliant and capable of handling more than I thought I would be able because I had their support while I was learning. I learned how to accommodate an activity for any disability, I learned to care for people with serious medical conditions wile being respectful and making them comfortable. You don’t know how much you’re actually capable of until you’re in a room with a kid covered in poop and another counselor and you make cleaning it up fun for everyone involved.
I was able to adapt to being in a new environment, make friends with people I had very little in common with, and find new experiences on my time off. In addition to my job, I also climbed seven of the Adirondack high peaks and organized a weekend backpacking trip for me and a couple of my coworkers. This experience was incredible, I was conquering mountains while conquering my previous assumptions about my abilities.
Working at Double H further solidified my passion for promoting health in a holistic manner, however it also showed me how capable I am of setting my mind to something, going out and doing it. I continually pushed the boundaries in my program area by challenging people’s perceived limitations that come along with a serious illness. Who says a child in a wheelchair cannot pee in the woods? Not me. Applying this mentality to my own life has encouraged me to rethink what I originally thought was not within my own realm of possibility. I have expanded my goals for my postgraduate plans to include things that I previously would not have had the confidence in myself to do.
Unfortunately I cannot post pictures of my campers online, but feel free to check out Double H Ranch online: http://www.doublehranch.org/ . So here’s a picture of me on a mountain and with some of my coworkers.