Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CAMP JAKE :: The healing sea

The mere sight of the vast, seemingly endless ocean can bring an onslaught of emotions:
  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Apprehension
  • Fascination
  • Nervousness
  • Bliss
Most everyone can identify with one of these. The Red Thread Promise's Camp Jake campers and counselors are no exception. 

Some speed across the sand, stopping at the rocky berm before the sea to tear off their sandals and wait for the counselors to set the perimeter in the water. It is immediately clear that they can't wait to dive in. When the lifeguard gives a thumbs up, they are the first ones to take the plunge. This group usually consists of the deaf and hearing impaired, a spunky ensemble with a vibrancy and lust for life that is contagious. While not fearless, they are more than willing to explore the ocean, both above and below the water, on the rocks, swimming on someone's back and everything in between.

Casey with a group of blind campers exploring the sounds,
smells and textures of the ocean
Others move at a slower pace, taking in the beauty of the beach and the surging water: the smells, the textures, the breeze on their faces, the anticipation. These are the ones that dip their toes in the water to determine the temperature and decide if they will sit in the surf or go in with a counselor. This is especially true of the blind. With a glance you can see that they are like human sponges, absorbing the unfamiliar surroundings, from the sand beneath their toes, to the smooth rocks, to the salty water and the algae covered rocks. Some are independent, allowing their hands and feet to guide them through the water. Others will only enter holding the hands of a counselor who leads them through the gentle waves.

Casey and DeeDee bringing Diana to the ocean
Christina, a wheelchair-bound camper, and Gregory
Our empathy for those with prosthetics or wheelchairs runs deep as they are the ones most dependent on the counselors for this meaningful experience. Those who are able, propel themselves to the end of the walkway on the beach and then patiently wait for someone to push them to the edge of the rocks. The more mature ones take time to reflect on the ocean before make a commitment whether or not to come in, while the younger ones soak in all of the excitement and movement around them. A counselor invites each into the water, and if accepted, lifts them up and trudges through the rocks to the water's edge. Some sit in the surf, letting the water gently lap against their bodies, soothing their skin. Others want to embrace the water in a whole body experience, allowing a counselor to glide their body through the salty water. This feeling of weightlessness is overwhelming for some, being one of the only times in their life where they can move without the weight of a wheelchair beneath them or arms holding them.

Regardless of ability, going to the ocean is beneficial for everyone, from the most physically active to those with the most challenges. From the fresh air, to a refreshing breeze, camaraderie among friends, moving out of the usual comfort zone, trying something new and trusting the counselors—going to the beach is one of the most beneficial parts of Camp Jake. We invite you to be a part of it today by donating to The Red Thread Promise. 

We are still accepting donations toward the July session of Camp Jake to offset the cost of the camp. All gifts are tax deductible. If you are interested, please send a check to the address at the top right or click on the PayPal button on the right. Be sure to put "Camp Jake" in the memo line.

Shawn floating with Auguste

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