Wednesday, August 15, 2007

MDA Summer Camp

Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed early, lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement… or drive to the pool and jump in the water. When it’s 104 degrees outside, and I drip sweat just pumping my tires, do I really want to ride? There are times I would rather do a brick shower than a brick run. I find myself complaining about slow times, or feeling exhausted during a workout.

However - aches, pains, miles, yards, sacrifices, early mornings, sore muscles, fatigue, etc… are all part of being an athlete. They make you stronger, faster, more powerful, mentally tough. And, all things considered… I welcome the torture, because I can. I am able.

I got a good reminder of this last week. From time to time, it’s good to get a swift kick in the butt. And, MDA Summer Camp did just that. Spending time amongst those kids… witnessing their challenges, seeing their joy, watching them sing, dance, swim, play, pull pranks, laugh… reaffirmed the work I do. Not only did it validate my job, it struck an emotional chord.

On the surface, my work is in fundraising: event planning. I have goals to meet, deadlines, budgets to exceed, phone calls, emails… but, sometimes I forget the importance of what I do. The money I raise sends these kids to camp. A camp they call, “the best week of their lives.” A time when they can be together and not feel like an outcast in a wheelchair. They are understood, accepted, not alone.

During arts and crafts, we turned their power wheelchairs into race-cars fit for the MDA 500. There was a video game tournament. We had water gun fights, told ghost stores, and roasted marshmallows. At the talent show we had singers and pianists. Some kids went fishing. We tie-dyed shirts, played softball, watched a movie, and their favorite… spent time in the pool!

As normal as these activities seem, there is an undeniable challenge when you don’t have full use of your limbs. Most of these children rely on someone to help them use the restroom, bathe, eat, get dressed… actions I don’t think about twice. I heard the nurses stress the use of bug spray. They made it sound so important, I had to ask. One nurse explained that bug bites can be torture when you can’t scratch them! If they are uncomfortable lying in bed, a counselor had to rotate or reposition them. Can you imagine… simply needing assistance when you want to roll over, or scratch a bug bite on your leg?!

Too often I complain about swimming. I struggle to make intervals, I get bored, my body gets tired. Well, these kids consider the pool heaven on earth! It’s quite a production to get them into the water, but once they’re there… you can see their delight. No longer are their limbs heavy burdens. Their smiles, heads bobbing up and down in the water, are memories etched in my mind… a newfound motivation for me as I push off the wall.

Summer camp is just one of the many things funded by event proceeds. We help provide necessary medical devices (wheelchairs, communication tools, leg braces, and so on), support group meetings (for patients and their families), counseling, flu shots (as their immune system is often affected), medical clinics, physical therapy… and one of the most important areas: research. The search for a cure.

Spending time at MDA summer camp was not the first time I’ve felt fortunate for my health, and it will not be the last. But, we all need a reminder every now and then. I'm sure, in the future, I’ll still moan about tired legs, aching muscles, and long workouts… but, today I am lucky. I was blessed with an able body. Something to think about the next time you find yourself scraping the bottom of your training fuel barrel.


Anonymous said...

OH, great post, Ash!!! Honestly, there is NOT a better person for that job than you. What a reminder of how lucky we all are and how lucky EVERYONE is.

Sally said...

What a wonderful opportunity. I am so proud of you working to brings these experiences to these young kids. And for sharing the experience through your blog so all of us can gain a better understanding. Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Ashley - Reading your post brought back many fond memories from my experience working at an MDA camp between my junior and senior year in college. It remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life! So glad to know it meant a lot to you as well. Every dollar you raise gives a child an opportunity to be "normal" for a little while!

Anonymous said...

Way to go Ashley - what a wonderful blog post! I needed to read that this morning. Thanks for reminding all of us of the "bigger picture".

Sarah Kolb