I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of The Wings of Friendship Summer Camp over the past 8 weeks. A virtual camp that brought together teens and young adults with varying disabilities to enjoy daily activities together. Through various partnerships within the community, campers had the opportunity to participate in art, acting, sign language, trivia, special guest speakers, and so much more.
Each day that I signed onto virtual camp, I experienced campers from all over the country, coming together for social activities, yet beginning to work together as a family supporting, encouraging, and truly caring for one another. Sometimes conversations were light and funny, at other times they shared their struggles with how their disabilities affected them day to day.
Through the collaboration of The Friendship Journey and Dylan’s Wings of Change-Camp Wings of Friendship was created. Presidents’ Samantha Novick (The Friendship Journey) and Ian Hockley, (Dylan’s Wings of Change), both honor children who lost their lives in school shootings. Dylan Hockley(Ian’s son) was one of the first-grade victims who lost his life in the mass shooting while attending school at Sandy Hook Elementary. Jaime Guttenberg and Gina Montalto were both victims of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Jaime and Gina both had volunteered at The Friendship Journey virtual hangouts. Dylan, Jaime and Gina are the reasons the two non-profit organizations came together and continue to share their light and inspire others.
Last week was the final week of camp. Special Guest Speakers, James LeBrecht (director of the 2020 documentary of Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution) and Judith Heumann (a disability rights activist) both came and spoke and answered questions that they were asked during their visit. Campers were incredibly inspired by both James and Judith’s stories. Many of them expressed a sense of empowerment to continue fighting for rights for those with disabilities.
The final celebration was filled with lots of laughing, sharing and sadness. After 8 weeks of being part of this amazing community, it was time to say goodbye. Campers exchanged numbers and email addresses with promises to keep in touch. As I think back on the past 8 weeks, the camp quote will continue to resonate with me….” Kindness is the Key, Love is the Answer”.