A Former Camper’s Perspective
By Marcella Genut
Hello everyone! For those of you who have not met me, I am Marcella, the public relations intern at ESP! You have probably seen me around at 360 snapping pictures or in the office, busily typing away.
An interesting fact about me is I have Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. This makes me use a power wheelchair and my muscles will slowly get weaker over time. However, I do not let that stop me from living life to the fullest.
When I was seven years old, I attended my first ever sleep-away camp. I went to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Camp Walk ‘N Roll at Camp Twin Lakes. I was a camper for 10 years until I aged out, which was the saddest day of my life. I can honestly say choosing to go to camp was the best decision I ever made.
If you’re a parent who is nervous and unsure about sending their child to camp (my mom certainly was), don’t worry! Your child will be in good hands and have an absolute blast. If you’re unsure about volunteering or being on staff, don’t be! People with disabilities are not scary and may have different needs, but you will quickly catch on.
My counselor Hailey, who was a former ESP volunteer, was my counselor for 9 years. She is one of my best friends and we still keep in touch to this day! I’ve been invited to numerous of Hailey’s family events where they treat me like one of their own, and same with my family!
The friendships you build at camp become family. I grew up with my cabin mates and they are like sisters to me. Spending a week together, you’re bound to stick to each other like glue. From crazy adventures like having a water gun fight, celebrating birthdays or your cabin getting called out during spirit check, these memories are treasured forever. We’ve giggled countless nights, played card games and raced each other in our chairs.
For me, camp is a freeing place. It’s a place to be surrounded by others in wheelchairs and feel at home, amongst comrades fighting the same battle. It’s a place where I can do activities I can’t do anywhere else. At camp, I can horseback ride, zip line, swim easily and paddle board! The sky’s the limit!
It’s a place I can truly be myself and not be afraid or embarrassed. It’s a place where I can let go of the worries of doctor appointments, medicine needs and being made fun of. Camp has also helped me gain confidence and I’ve learned so much about myself. I accomplished great feats at camp and because of that, it instilled me with determination I have taken with me. I’ve also learned how to self-advocate. I’ve had to tell my counselors how to take care of me and what I needed. I’ve also learned so many lessons at camp about friendships, supporting others and empathy.
I see all of these great things at ESP. I see friendships blossoms and new ones occur. I see a judgement-free place where participants can be who they want to be. I see ESP participants overcoming challenges, laughing from their heart and doing things they never thought they could! I’ve seen people’s confidence soar as they took to the stage and performed in front of others. I’ve seen people who were nervous to perform, have friends jump in and support them on stage. I’ve seen people cheering each other on and shouting, “You got this!” This positive energy will only grow at ESP camp and I know others will be changed like I was at camp.
“We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong.”