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2020 U.S. Paralympic Team Member and Former Camper Jessica Heims Shares Her Reflections on Camp and Journey to Tokyo.

Aug 3, 2021 |

Revised 10/21/2021

When I think back to my years at Youth Camp, the word that comes to mind is acceptance. At the other camps I attended, there was an awkward stage where kids were confused by my disability, and there was a fatiguing phase of getting acquainted before we could become friends. At camp, I felt accepted by everyone as soon as I stepped off the plane and into the airport terminal. Escaping that initial uncomfortable phase made me feel incredibly welcomed for who I was without any explanation, and it was truly life changing.

For me, my favorite memories of camp were during all the in-between moments. Times where I could help someone up the stairs or talk about our prosthetic device while we waited for grilled cheese to be served. I hope you all can recreate those moments by forming meaningful connections wherever you are this year. The Amputee Coalition staff is working hard to create more moments of connection by bringing the community together with safety in mind.

I still stay connected with many of my friends from Youth Camp to this day. My advice for campers going through the second year of the virtual camp setting is that you still can connect to each other from wherever you are. Use your energy to cherish and maintain your relationships in a virtual environment. In 2021, we are choosing to focus on the people, not the place.

Caption: (Jessica Heims, Courtesy of Jessica Heims Twitter)

This summer, I stepped into the Tokyo terminal to find another empowering community at the Paralympic games. I competed in the discus throw at the track and field events. When I get into my mindset to compete in the discus throw event, my mental talk consists of the gratitude of what has gotten me to this moment in my life – every camp I attended, every track I went to, and everyone who supported me along the way. It motivates me more than I would focusing on a single medal or throw.

Because of camp, I was inspired to love and accept my disability, and let it give me freedom instead of setting me back. I have applied this same mindset to my track and field events, and it has empowered me to achieve new heights.

Jessica Helms

Caption: (Jessica Heims, Courtesy of Teams USA)

See you on the other side of the games, with stronger acceptance and connections from all our experiences.

With gratitude,

Jessica Heims
2020 U.S. Paralympic Team
Para Track and Field
Youth Camp Alumna