Friday, August 22, 2014

Camp Emerge

I wish I could remember how I first heard of Camp Emerge.  Camp Emerge is a camp for families touched by autism held at Camp Victory in Millville, PA.  It was a wonderful opportunity for our family to connect with other families touched by autism.  Below is an excerpt from their website.

"Camp Emerge is a camp set up directly for the families of those touched by Autism. The camp is designed to help bring families together for a weekend, to work on their feelings, fears, dreams, and relationships with each other. It is designed to allow the family to sit back, relax and just be together without the worry of judgment or pressure to explain differences."

We arrived on Saturday, June 28th around 10am, checked in at the office, and unloaded the truck into our cabin.  The cabins are shared between families, normally three to four families in one cabin.  Our cabin happened to have only one other family.  The kids were super excited about the bunk beds, I think it may have been their favorite part!

Home for the Weekend!
Once we were settled into the cabin it was time to explore a little.  We made a short stop by the swings until Cullen spotted the bounce house.  The bounce house was another favorite!  After a little bouncing, our family gathered with all the other families in the cafeteria for the welcome and announcements.  Camp had officially started!!!

Too cute not to use this picture!
Events and activities were planned, but everything was loose.  We weren't required to attend anything. Available to us was biking, fishing, a nature center, wagon rides, swimming, arts and crafts, and a nighttime campfire with s'mores and camp songs.  The kids had a great time.  And it turns out Maggie is an excellent fisher!


What didn't I love about Camp Emerge?  Well, it was a big dose of reality.  Cullen was one of the youngest of the affected.  The oldest was probably in his mid-20s.  So a range in age of pre-school to graduate school.  It was as if the entire spectrum was exhibited.  There were kids on one end of the spectrum who were completely nonverbal, rocking, shouting out, kids who at the age of 11 who were still not toilet trained.  Then on the other end of the spectrum there were kids who were mainstreamed in school, and one beginning classes this fall to earn his master's degree, almost indistinguishable from his peers.  Spectrum.  And it left me wondering, which of these futures is in store for Cullen?   Is there any chance of regression?  While rare, I have heard stories of that happening.  Or is there a chance he could be the college graduate getting ready to start work on his master's degree?  Our future is so uncertain, which is true whether or not your family is an autism family.  I think autism just serves an extra dose of anxiety over that uncertainty.

What did I love about Camp Emerge?  I loved that we could follow Cullen's agenda.  The time in the pool was limited due to life guard availability, but other than that, we were left to do as we pleased.  If he wanted to throw rocks in the creek for an hour and a half (which he did), nobody questioned that or hurried us along to a different activity.  I loved that when I couldn't get him out of the bounce house that a volunteer stepped up to help me get to the parents' circle.  I loved the frankness and honesty from the other parents, because we all knew we were at least in the same pond if not in the same boat.  But most of all, I loved that not a soul there would judge my son for any behavior he may exhibit.  He could be himself, and I didn't once feel like I needed to explain.
"Nothing Great Was Ever Achieved Without Enthusiasm"

I would also like to mention that Camp Victory is a special place for all sorts of special kids.  They hold camp for kids affected by everything from autism, organ donation, chronic ventilators, heart disease, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, spina bifida, deafness, skin disorders, and dwarfism.  It truly has been a blessing in our lives.  If you feel moved to make a contribution, you can do so on their website.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Midd-West Relay for Life Inaugural 5k/10k and 1/2 Mile Fun Run

My cousin Ange has long been involved in the Midd-West Relay for Life.  This year they decided to add a road race to the festivities and asked me to help.  So I met with Ange and the Fetterolf ladies (Joan, Michele, and Dani) to start planning.  I didn't have much advice to offer, but I shared my experience from planning CJ's Resolution Challenge.  So on June 21, Aaron, Maggie, Cullen and I went to the Beaver Springs Fair Grounds for the Inaugural Midd-West Relay for Life De-Feet Cancer 5k/10k.  There was only eleven of us running the 10k, but about 50-55 running the 5k.

Pre-race Photos! Me, Cullen, and Mags
Both races followed the same out and back route, with the 10k running to a more distant turn around point.  At the beginning Aaron and my sister-in-law Erica took off ahead of me, and I had to cool my jets and not try to catch them.  I felt good and strong and slowly picked up my pace.  I passed a few people, got by the 5k turn point, and realized I was the first female in the 10k race.  And I knew that I had distanced myself already from the second lady, so now just to not mess up.  Mission accomplished!  I was fourth overall of eleven 10k runners and first of seven females.  I PR'd my 10k time with a 50:43 (so close to sub-50!)  As you can see, Aaron was third overall and third male.

It looks like it says 40:43, but I am NOT that speedy!
This race was well supported with water stations and volunteers, my only critique was to encourage their volunteers stationed at turns to be more vocal about which way to run.

Next up was the kids 1/2 Mile Fun Run!  I was was super excited about this because the four of us would be running together.  Cullen and I ran a race at the end of last summer, but now the four of us would get to run together.  Dear old Dad was the photographer, so he is missing from the photos, but I think the smiles speak for themselves.
We love running!
When I think of this day it is not the 10k race I think of, even though I did run a pretty good race that day.  What I remember most is running with my family and the fun we had together.  I always leave them at home when I run.  I always have a prescribed distance, speed, or other workout I "have" to do that day.  So this was a great opportunity to share what I love.  I want to keep them little, and I avoid saying "I can't wait 'til....." when it comes to my kids, but I do look forward to the day when we can easily spend more time biking and running together.  This race helped remind me of why I love running, its fun!!!  Not convinced?  Again, I say those smiles speak for themselves.   ;)