One of my new favorite weekends of the year just happened – the LIM359 Kid’s Activity Camp. I was fortunate again this year to participate both as a parent of campers and as a volunteer helping facilitate activities. This is the second year LIM359 has held the event and this year was even better than the first. We had three age groups this year and the camp consists of rotating the groups among various activities for two full days. This year, the camp was open for siblings to participate in all activities, which I thought was great. So Clay, our 3.5-year-old who wears a right leg prosthesis, was with the under 5 “ocean animals” and Sierra, our fully limbed 6.5-year-old, was with the “monsters.”
You might think that a camp involving kids that are missing legs, arms, or some combination of both, would require specialty treatment of activities. The reality is that it doesn’t. The reality is that it looks like any other kid’s camp: lots of laughing, competitiveness, ganging up on grown-ups, and kids trying their hardest and having a lot of fun playing basketball, soccer, golf, human hungry hippos, and doing track and field events.
Here are some of the observations and highlights I took away both as a parent and volunteer:
- Having a limb difference doesn’t really impact a child’s ability to have fun, be happy, and have self-confidence. Clay is just as happy, fun-loving, and confident as any other 3.5-year-old and so were all the other campers I interacted with over the two days.
- The inclusivity. The kids themselves described this way more eloquently than I can so go watch the Channel 9 story for more on that. But, it was just really cool to see siblings, parents, and the kids with limb differences all playing and interacting together. There was no staring, no questions. I have this picture that I love with Sierra (our full limbed daughter) sitting next to the others in her group. Everyone sitting by her had some degree of limb loss or difference and she didn’t care. It didn’t matter to her and she didn’t see these kids differently or treat them differently because of it.
- Clay’s devotion to the 50-yard dash. He did it at least a half dozen times and he’d get down into this sprinter’s start with his intense game fest and try his hardest. It didn’t matter to him, or anyone else, how long it took. He tried his best and finished what he started and we were all really proud of him.
- Redefining the “right” way to do something. We’ve been taught how to properly shoot a free throw or swing a golf club (even after many years of coaching and instruction I personally don’t perform either one very well). But in the case of folks with limb loss, you have to figure out the right way to do it for yourself. Like swinging a golf club with one hand, shooting a free throw missing a hand, whatever the case. It’s really fun to watch the improvisation that the volunteers and kids had in figuring out the best way to perform the activity. You didn’t see discouragement or hear “I can’t do this.” You see people working together to figure out how they can do it.
- Watching your kids have fun and make friends over two full days is one of the best and most rewarding things ever.
- During Human Hungry Hungry Hippo I was being the “pusher/puller”……..I had a camper with a leg prosthetic as the Hippo. After a couple of runs her leg came off when I was pulling her backwards. In other environments, that probably would have been a bigger deal. Not necessarily in a bad way. But just because people aren’t used to seeing that it becomes a bigger deal, or they might even feel bad for the kid not realizing the kid may not at all feel bad for themselves. The reality in this situation is that we both had a laugh about it, I set her leg down off to the side, and we continued the game with one leg. No big deal at all to her, me, or anyone else there.
- Making new friends. Lots of new parent and kid friends were made. After camp, we’ve already met up with Clay’s new buddy Knox and his family and I’m sure at some point we’ll be heading out into the mountains to catch up with Sierra’s BFF from camp Sophie and her family.
All in all, it was a great couple of days and we already can’t wait for next year!
by Steve Simon