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 own foot, this man was able to go to camp and pursue his passion.
Another camper loved to sing and quote movies. Although he could talk, he did not converse in a traditional manner. A conversation with him involved repeating quotes he recited or singing along with whichever Christmas song he chose in the middle of June. After countless hours together, I discovered that he could hold typical conversations. We had a debate over whether there was chocolate chips or raisins in my muffin. I was thrilled that we were able to connect. Had I just dismissed him because of his disability, I would never have been able to get to know him.
Through these campers and many others, I was able to see that they were able to enjoy life and spread joy despite their ostensibly “imperfectness”, proving to me that every life matters.”