Monday, October 1, 2012

Summer Update and His Kids Camp Part One

by Shelly Burke, Editor, Nebraska Family Times

Gosh time has flown by! I don't know where the summer went! Between taking Morgan to college in Colorado and some family issues, I was surprised to turn the calendar over today and realize that it's October! Last time I posted here was just after I'd volunteered as Camp Nurse at Camp Luther near Schuyler, NE. The days at His Kids Camp, for special needs teens and adults, truly changed my life. I'm going to begin "catching up" here by posting about His Kids Camp. 

These articles were originally printed in the Nebraska Family Times newspaper, of which I'm the editor and publisher. The mission of the Nebraska Family Times is "to inspire, encourage, and motivate you in your Christian walk." The Nebraska Family Times is a pro-life, pro-family publication, and we share national, state, and local news and events from a Christian point of view. For more information check out our blog at Nebraska Family Times and "like" us on Facebook. For a FREE sample issue of the paper, e-mail your request to sure to include your mailing address--or call (402) 750-3496. 

Now, I hope you will enjoy reading about His Kids Camp! 
His Kids Camp Part 1
By Shelly Burke, RN

I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe my experience at His Kids Camp in June. I volunteered as the Camp Nurse and was there  from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning.

His Kids Camp is a camp for special needs children and adults. The group that I was there for was made up mostly of teens and young adults with a variety of diagnosis, including Down Syndrome, autism, and so on. Each camper was paired with at least one “buddy,” who assisted that camper as needed with activities, meals, getting dressed, and so on.

I arrived before the campers did so I could get the medication area organized, and I was more than a little nervous about meeting the campers. I hadn’t been to camp for many years (and if I remember right I got so homesick my parents had to come and get me after just a day) and had never worked with special needs kids or adults. Would they take their medications for me? Would I remember their names? Would I be asked to handle difficult behaviors? Would they like me (do we ever stop asking that question)?

These thoughts were swirling around in my mind as the first campers and their parents and caregivers came in. Most of my nervousness went away and I quickly got into “nurse” mode when the parents brought their child’s medications to me. They gave hints for getting their child to take medications and described in detail treatments and other cares needed. When two campers came in with CPAP machines (the machine forces air through a mask into the mouth and nose of people who suffer from sleep apnea) I wasn’t sure if the buddies would know how to use them, but a buddy quickly came and reassured the father that we’d make sure the machines were used correctly.

When a mom handed me her daughter’s g-tube and liquid medications and told me about her g-button (a device used to give nutrition and medications directly into the stomach) I assured her I’d worked with a g-button many times and it would be no problem to take care of her daughter’s.  

Giving medications at supper time was hectic; I hadn’t figured out a routine yet and didn’t know any of the campers. However, they all came up with their buddies, who told me their names, and everyone took their medications without complaint. I began to breathe a little bit easier.

Enjoying snack time.

After supper I went to work double checking the medications and figuring out a routine for giving them. I looked up several unfamiliar medications on the computer and got everything in order. The little girl with the g-button came in for her medications, and while she didn’t speak, her smile spoke volumes. When she circled her fist in front of her chest and then pointed at me, I wasn’t sure what she meant. Her buddies were eager to tell me that it meant “I like you!” and I quickly signed the same back to her. After I was done she gave me the tightest hug I think I’d ever received! At that point I knew the rest of camp was going to be great!

The campers joined in the big hall before bedtime and sang several songs. When I heard the director ask everyone to join hands for the Lord’s Prayer, I peeked out the window of the med room so I could say it with them. All had joined hands…except for a camper and his buddy across the room from me. They seemed to be talking to each other and I was wondering if the camper was having trouble…and then I realized, with tears in my eyes, that the camper was deaf and he and his buddy were signing The Lord’s Prayer to each other.

During His Kids Camp I was also able to spend some time with Hank and Sue Rausch. Hank is the Executive Director of Camp Luther, and Sue is the Outdoor Education Coordinator. They have been part of Camp Luther for about 10 years.

Both Hank and Sue shared their thoughts about His Kids Camp with me. Hank sees God’s hand at work every year when the campers check in. If they’ve been to His Kids Camp before, Hank says one of the first things they ask is, “Is my buddy {from last year} here?” Hank continues, “If the answer is “yes,” they jump for joy. If their buddy is not there, they are sad at first but then ask excitedly who their new buddy will be. To know that they remember their buddies name and the great times they had the previous year shows how God uses the buddies to touch the lives of the campers.”

Dance moves
Sue said her favorite part is when the returning campers return to His Kids Camp and “having them come running to me from across the lodge with their arms open for a big hug.”

I also talked with some of the buddies for His Kids Camp. All of the returning buddies and volunteers said they’d been nervous as new campers, but quickly overcame the nervousness. LeAnn Miller has been a buddy and volunteer for three years. She remembers, “The first year I was very nervous about being a buddy to someone with special needs. But I quickly realized that it’s not a one-person job—all the buddies and volunteers help each other. The most rewarding part is seeing the smiles on the campers’ faces when they go home—knowing that Jesus loves them and others do too.”

Camper Nicholas Cech had been to a fall retreat (see dates for His Kids weekend Retreats and His Kids Camp for this fall and 2013 on the back page of this issue of the Nebraska Family Times) and knew he wanted to come to a regular camp. He said that his favorite part of camp was chapel—“I truly felt the Holy Spirit!” he exclaimed. As I was saying good-bye to Nicholas he said, “I don’t want to leave. But I’ll be back!” And from the looks on the faces of the campers, buddies, and volunteers—he’s not the only one who will be back. 
Look for Part 2 of His Kids Camp tomorrow! 

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