It’s hard to think about everything of our week in Chesterfield and not want to go back. By the end of just seven days, so much had changed for the better, and I’m really proud of everyone on the team for helping that happen. The thing I think that stood out most was how well our team interacted with and handled situations with the kids and adults, all with various developmental disabilities. The eleven on our team ranged widely in terms of level of prior experience working with this population, but after even just a few days at Camp Baker, those who’d previously had no experience were indistinguishable from those who’d had years.
Just looking around at a teammate pushing a camper laughing uncontrollably on a swing, another teammate sitting on the ground next to a camper lying eyes closed on a slide, three more busying a picnic table full of campers with pipe-cleaner crafts and even more standing in a circle, reaching for the sky in the first of many warm-up stretches—and seeing how everyone (team mates and campers alike) truly wanted to be there, and was so good at truly being there—was a truly inspiring sight (and reoccurred plenty of times every day). The way that the members of our team spoke so fondly about campers and formed such solid friendships, and spoke to and played with them with so much warmth, and the way that many of the campers spoke with and about our team, was a rare and awesome thing–heartwarming even.
Names and faces will be in our heads forever: Ian, who loved Disney; Tyler, who liked to dig holes in gardens, and sometimes sprinkle those around him with the dirt; Jorge, who loved to dance; Kimberly and Victoria, two sisters who were so cheerful and fun even though they dealt with a lot at home; Brett, who loved to duet with anyone; Brittany, who had the greatest laugh; Sharon, the cutest middle-aged person in the world; Buddy, the most helpful 70-something-year-old leaf-raking enthusiast ever; so many others too.
Other favorite points include how well our team talked and reflected about the day, about serious and lighthearted, positive and negative experiences, about widely-agreed-upon ideas or controversial ones, and during delegated Reflection time and whenever it came up throughout the day. Our collective ready-to-go attitude we usually had even after a long tiring day meant we could make the most out of our time there. This led to unexpected activities like walking around Richmond to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; finding a little hole-in-the-wall place to eat traditional Southern food; watching “I Am Sam,” a movie based on a true story of an autistic man whose sole custody of his beloved 7-year-old daughter is discovered by the state, and the legal journey that ensues; planning a St. Patrick’s Day gold hunt for the campers and dressing a team-member up as a leprechaun (green top hat, sunglasses, and tie) to announce the game in an Irish accent.
I’m really excited to see what our now more open-minded, tolerant, patient, creative, flexible team can do with what we’ve learned now that we’re back. I don’t think it will end after our required reorientation is officially completed—we’ll continue to be involved and share our experiences for years to come. Hopefully there’s a way we’ll be able to stay in contact with the kids and adults we met at Camp Baker, or even just check in every once in a while to see how they’re doing. We’ll absolutely all stay in touch and never forget that single week. Thanks again team for making it such an amazing week :)