Jenny Fournier, 17, volunteered at Camp Friendship for a week summer 2015. Jenny came to CF with her youth minister, Rita Sherepa, and a friend from her youth group from St. Raphael’s Church out of Duluth after a former CIT/current respite staff spread the word about True Friends.
In confirming dates with Rita for this summer (we now have 6 youth interested in coming), she mentioned an essay Jenny wrote about her volunteer experience with us won 2nd place in the Respect Life scholarship through their church diocese. Jenny was kind enough to share her essay with us, and we’d like to share it with you!
“Common belief in society would have one believe that the only life worth living is one of a physically and mentally “perfect” person. However, while volunteering at Camp Friendship, a camp for people with disabilities, first hand experience led me to realize the importance of every life. Two campers in particular demonstrated that every life is worth living.
The first camper did not fit society’s definition of a “perfect” person because he was mostly nonverbal and seemingly simple tasks, like dressing himself, eluded him. Society would have one believe there is no joy in this lifestyle. However, his parents had spent endless hours teaching him to read. He carried a binder with him, which he used to communicate by pointing to pictures. His parents’ care and commitment helped him receive a master’s degree in botany, a subject he was passionate about. While many citizens would be devastated if they could not put a sock on their [...]
By Erin LaVine, Manager of Camping
Everyone knows how quickly viral news stories can spread awareness. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the Light it Up Blue for Autism campaign and the Polar Plunge are just a few examples of how people are using social channels to affect change and awareness. I’m not sure if it’s because I follow a lot of amazing parents, caregivers, service providers and educators, but in the past two weeks my social media has been filled with amazing stories about individuals with differabilities and their families achieving new heights. Below are thoughts on my three favorite viral stories.
First, my heart was burst into at least 3 million parts when I saw the video of Atticus hitting the skate park with his dad. Atticus is a young gentleman who has Cerebral Palsy, he utilizes a wheelchair and he is a cutie! His mother explained in a blog that after seeing a dad pushing his child in wheelchair at a skate park, her family dropped everything and went to do the same. I mean, how cool is that? Make sure you watch the video to the very end, Atticus’s reaction is priceless!
Later in the week while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a wonderful series of photos Glenn Gameson-Burrows has taken to help the public better understand his daughter and other people on the Autism Spectrum. His photos showcase the calm and sometimes tumultuous behaviors of a handful of children and two adults. If you just saw these pictures, there would be no way of knowing these individuals had ASD and that’s the point. The photographer wants us to be less judgmental. He wants us [...]
In the mid-1950’s, an FFA chapter from Freeborn, MN took to local corn fields to ask farmers if they could pick up corn after a damaging storm. These FFA students walked the fields picking up corn; they sold this corn and donated the proceeds to Camp Courage. This very first corn drive raised $90 for camp. Since that first chapter and first corn drive, over 80 chapters have joined the “Corn Drive for Camp Courage,” and turned that $90 into a 60 year tradition and over $5.5 million donated to our camps, where children and adults with disabilities attend camp, make friends, learn new skills and have fun.
Evolution of the Corn Drive
Last year, 61 Chapters of the MN and WI FFA took part in the Corn Drive for Courage. This number continues to increase as more and more chapters learn about camp and the impact their donations have on children and adults with disabilities. There are different ways chapters can participate in the fundraiser. Some still physically collect the corn from farmers and sell it at a local grain elevator. Others set up a table at a local elevator to accept donations as farmers come to sell their corn. FFA Chapters without corn to sell conduct other fundraiser activities including other grain drives, battery drives, dessert auctions, fruit sales and flower sales.
History of True Friends, Camp Courage and the FFA
Over the past 60 years, True Friends and Camp Courage have had the great joy of working with hundreds of FFA students and advisors and these students are bright, dedicated and hard-working. The Minnesota FFA has an amazing history of philanthropy towards Camp Courage. The FFA motto is: Learning to Do, [...]
A recent article published by the Huffington Post, titled “My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About” sheds light on the many forms that Autism takes. “The media shows us all of the feel-good stories, like the child with autism who gets to be the manager of the high school basketball team, or the boy with autism who goes to the prom with the beautiful girl, or the girl with autism who is voted onto the homecoming court. We light it up blue every April and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware.
But we aren’t aware.
Because for every boy with autism who manages his high school basketball team, there are 20 boys with autism who smear feces. And for every girl with autism who gets to be on the homecoming court, there are 30 girls with autism who pull out their hair and bite their arms until they bleed. And for every boy with autism who gets to go the prom, there are 50 boys with autism who hit and kick and bite and hurt other people.
This is the autism that no one talks about. This is the autism that no one wants to see.”
Our amazing Program Manager, Erin LaVine, shared her thoughts about the article as it relates to camp and True Friends.
“As someone who is one of the first to share stories of people with disabilities achieving great feats, I find this article wonderfully written and eye opening.
Each summer I have the honor of welcoming countless campers, with countless abilities to camp. I get to [...]
Sarah Wright-Walstrom was looking for an activity for her family to participate in over the summer that would allow them to do good while spending quality time together. After hearing about True Friends through a ‘Doing Good Together’ newsletter, Sarah decided camp was the place for them. Sarah, her husband, Dave, and three sons, ages 7, 10 and 12, spent a week volunteering during the last week of camp at Camp Courage this past summer.
Dave and the two older boys assisted in a cabin of 11 campers, who were mostly active and verbal. They enjoyed assisting the campers with games, arts and crafts, sports and waterfront activities. Sarah noted that she was particularly impressed with how much her sons were able to learn about differences and appreciate people as individuals. They learned about respect and patience while assisting the campers and felt a sense of accomplishment from the week.
Sarah and her youngest son were placed in a cabin of seven older campers, many of whom were nonverbal and only one of which was ambulatory. At first, Sarah felt overwhelmed and ready to give up. By the end of the week, she had formed lifelong bonds with several of the campers. One of her favorite memories was taking the cabin to the zip line. She had a great time and was thrilled to see the group so happy and excited about an activity.
Since camp, Sarah and her family have embraced several of the campers they met into their family. Neither camper has family close by, so Sarah has found time to visit them, take them to lunch or out of their homes for the day and call them on the phone [...]
International Literacy Day: Sept. 8, 2015
The theme of International Literacy Day 2015 is Literacy and Sustainable Societies. Literacy is a key driver for sustainable development. Literacy skills are the prerequisite for the learning of a broader set of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, required for creating sustainable societies. At the same time, progress in areas of sustainable development, such as health and agriculture, serves as an enabling factor in the promotion of literacy and literate environments. From: UNESCO
The 11th annual Literacy Camp was held this summer at Camp Friendship. Literacy Camp is a session for children that are struggling with reading, writing or word comprehension. Campers spend time working with educational specialists learning strategies to improve areas of struggle unique to each individual. The camp is collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Education and the Center for Literacy and Disabilities Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and True Friends.
Qualified literacy experts use many different technologies and strategies to improve campers’ literacy. The educators test reading comprehension using a wide range of materials, from formal books to fun magazines. One piece of technology used at camp helps campers learn how to type out sentences. The software uses a word prediction tool to help campers select the next word in the sentence and spell it correctly.
Camp is an important part to having campers become literacy proficient. According to Jonathon, going to camp has helped him read better. “Going to camp lets [...]