If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Camp Shriver over my past two years as a volunteer, it is that Camp Shriver is so much more than just another summer camp.
During the first week of camp, which is the Multi-sport including Tennis, Bocce, Baseball, and Golf, I’ve been volunteering with a group of Special Olympics athletes ages 15-17. It’s hard to believe that camp started just three days ago; I’ve already seen so much growth in many of the athletes, both athletically and socially. What makes Camp Shriver different from other sports camps; is it’s not only about learning a sport, but also about forming friendship, facing your fears, and crossing barriers, for campers and volunteers alike. As a volunteer, I’ve been lucky enough to witness quite a few of these moments where an athlete really grows. Some of these moments are big, loud and hard to miss. Others are quiet and subtle, shared by only a few, and easy to overlook.
This week I have been paired with an athlete named Ethan. Though I’ve only been with Ethan for a few days, my time with him has really reminded me how Camp Shriver pushes campers to do their best and overcome obstacles. Throughout the week, I’ve been amazed at how much his abilities and coordination have improved, along with his attitude and willingness to try new things. On my first day working with Ethan, he was tired and frustrated by the walking, standing, and complicated drills. Convincing him to participate at each station seemed to take a great amount of time and effort. However, by the end of the second day I spent with him, he was not only willing, but eager to play and try new activities. At times, it was even difficult to convince him to stop playing and move on to the next station.
Throughout the week, Ethan has been met with constant support and encouragement by all of the counselors, volunteers, and athletes. While it is truly wonderful to be able to make an impact in the lives of the athletes I worked with this week, it is even more inspiring to see the immense amount of support that the athletes have shown each other. During our time in the Fitness Center, another athlete named Jonah approached me saying he wanted to stay behind and help Ethan as I was helping him move from the fitness machines on to his walker. The support coming from other athletes like Jonah, encourages Ethan and inspires him to succeed in all his attempts at Camp Shriver.
Even through this, I was still worried by his frustration, thinking that he wasn’t enjoying camp as much as some of the other athletes. However, at the end of the day my worries were dismissed. Ethan smiled at me and loudly declared, “Maggie, I had fun,” not just once, but several times. I’m sure that I, along with the rest of the volunteers, will have many stories to share and most will be more exciting and dramatic than this one. But for me, this was a moment that I will always remember.