Friendship and Inspiration: What One Camp Counselor Learned from his Campers
By: Noah “Tennessee” Isenstein, Camp Chi Counselor, 18-years-old
As a camper at Camp Chi for seven years, I never had a camper with significant disabilities in my cabin. This summer, however, I had the pleasure of being a counselor for a great group of campers, which included two amazing children who needed one-on-one support to have successful camp experiences.
The first camper, Cody, has been part of the group for many summers. Whether it was singing at Chi’s Got Talent, playing in the pool, or just goofing around at the cabin, Cody always had a smile on his face. His friends in our cabin— and all around camp— absolutely adored him, and always told me how much they wished he stayed for four weeks, rather than for only the two-week session.
My second camper, Josh, was an inspiration to me and all of my campers. Every morning, I came out of the counselor room and found Josh fully dressed and ready to go while his cabin mates were still sleeping. His dedication and perseverance made me reflect on the things that we take for granted every day.
My experiences with these campers taught me a lot about patience. Outside of Camp Chi, these children may struggle to adapt to the world around them and miss out on what is happening in the moment. Thankfully, our camp is a different kind of place. Cody and Josh were part of the group and have real friendships with the boys. Their cabin mates were willing to pitch in and help, so that they could enjoy every moment. They provided the necessary assistance – a helping hand here and there goes a long way to build confidence and solidify friendships.
Both of my cabins loved Josh and Cody with all their hearts, and would stop at nothing to make them feel happy and comfortable. Camp Chi has created an environment that not only educates children about special needs, but also encourages kids to interact with children with disabilities in the same way they would act with their typically developing peers.
As a camper, I always looked up to my counselors. This summer, however, my role models were my campers. They opened my eyes to what acceptance, family, team-work and community really means.