Jordan Simpson, Camp Counselor
The magic that the Amputee Coalition’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp supplies its participants was needed this year more than ever before, as we have all been subject to hardships and feelings of isolation, fear and uncertainty due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet despite all of this, even in a new virtual format there was no shortage of silliness, joy, and love. As an experienced counselor and former camper, I have had many wonderful and memorable camp experiences; but this year in particular will always hold a special place in my heart.
The week kicked off with a cheery camp-wide welcome, and then cabin time via a secure Zoom-like program. I was overjoyed to see everyone and catch up. Everyone was in the camp spirit, ready to make friendship bracelets and participate in the week’s lineup of exciting virtual activities that included showings of both “Dolphin Tale” movies; planting herbs, making stop-motion animation, a scavenger hunt, and a mysterious escape room challenge. I loved that some campers even spent the week camping in their backyards or living rooms to “get the full experience”. The week was packed with educational life skills activities as well. We all got the opportunity to learn about adaptive workouts, yoga and meditation, and adaptive recreational and professional sports with Challenged Athletes Foundation.
My favorite part of the week, other than the really awesome virtual escape room, was the break-out group discussions. During these group discussions the campers have empowering conversations with each other and their counselors about what it’s like to live with a limb difference, as well as what it’s like simply growing up in the world. There are serious conversations, questions about dating and driving, and there’s always a chorus of laughter and “Oh my gosh that’s happened to me too!”
These discussions– the entire week of camp for that matter– reminds me of our shared humanity, and the overwhelming power of community and connection. Amp Camp is a place of understanding, empowerment and growth; it’s a place where we all can simply be ourselves and breathe a sigh of relief. Camp is the highlight of the year for so many of us; and this year it felt like seeing a lighthouse in a cloudy ocean storm; signaling a way forward and reminding us that there is hope.