This summer I finally bit the bullet and sent Ollie to camp with his brother. Mind you, it was only 5 blocks from my house and Ollie would be accompanied by an aid (who happened to be his AWESOME Auntie…). But it felt a little “edgey” in my book. This camp would be for 1st-6th graders. The theme?…Super. There would be games, music and snacks. Kids would learn about God and enjoy the incredible freedom of just being kids. And mommy would have 3…no that’s not right…mommy would have FOUR FULL hours with just the little guy, Henry. A little quiet space for mom to get some much needed work done, and a lot of fun for the big kids to just be… big kids.
But how would this actually unfold? Would the camp help accomodate Ollie’s needs? They never advertised themselves as an accomodating church. Sure, I was sending him with a very attentive aid, but what would it actually look like to have Audrey (Auntie) help him and have her make all of those modifications? He’d be using his wheelchair for long distances. (He is currently working on walking- but being that he’s not yet proficient at it, he uses his chair often). He wears cochlear implants, which could be lost at any moment. And last but not least, he’s able to use the restroom with assistance, but not all of the time. He may in fact use his pull up instead of the toilet :/ How would the surrounding kids respond? How would the adults respond?
Would Ollie’s limitations hinder the group as a whole?
These are the wonderful thoughts that we as parents of special needs children get to ponder the days leading up to “camp”.
Monday finally arrived and we prepared to send these guys off for their adventures. I wasn’t too worried about safety… more curious of how it would all unfold.
I cannot express the delight in my heart when I was told of their day. Taylor (my oldest “typically developing” boy) explained that camp was awesome. He loved the music. He loved the games… he went on and on. Until finally he described what it was like for Ollie.
“It was so great Dad! They treated Ollie like a normal kid. He had to compete just like the other kids,” Taylor eagerly told my hubby. They had played a game where you balance a ball of foil (kryptonite) on a spoon and get it all the way across the gym and back. Ollie was in line just like the other kids and his Auntie helped him walk the distance. He was last BY FAR. But as he carefully balanced his kryptonite to one end, on his way back the entire gym began to scream and shout for him. The hollering continued but it was taking so darn long for him to finish that it died down a bit and was silent. I was imagining that moment being a little awkward. But as he got closer to his finish line the children and leaders began to chant, until finally there was a resounding cry of “Ollie!…Ollie!…Ollie!…Ollie!…”
I didn’t get to see his response. But from what I’m told, he could barely handle the excitement. Joyfully he gallop-walked-zig-zagged the rest of way with a smile from ear to ear.
This kid is a delight. His Auntie is a delight. His brother is a delight.
Thank you Faith Center for providing a safe place for my little guy to enjoy being a big kid. Camp was modified and adjusted to fit his needs not by a big system, but by caring individuals along the way. And as much as I know it was a joy for others to witness Ollie living his beautiful life, it was a true gift for Ollie and myself as well.