Walt Disney World
Arguably, the most magical place on earth. I was lucky enough to spend the weekend of February 27th through March 1st at the happiest place on earth with the happiest people on earth...my Camp Able family! The time I spend in Marco Island, Florida serving some of my favorite people alongside my best friends is easily one of the most rewarding (and exhausting) weeks out of the year. To have that experience during winter, at Disney World of all places, made it even more magical.
Having not been to Disney in about ten years, I was almost positive that I would be far more excited for our vacation than all of the campers combined. As they slowly began to arrive in Orlando with smiles larger than Cheshire Cat's, I realized that I had some competition. Every few minutes, another member of Camp Able walked through the door as everyone laughed, hugged and anticipated our upcoming adventure. We all gathered for dinner and discussed our excitement for the following day, preparing to conquer Disney World with old friends.
Bright and early, everyone got dressed and fueled up for our big day. Looking out the window, a few other staffers and I began to worry about the overcast weather and high chance of rain predicted for our only day at the park. The two campers staying in our room, Brittany and Alli, pulled us away from our doubts as they grabbed our hands and ran out into the rain to wait for our shuttle. My camper, Allison Paci and I giggled, sharing our excitement and anticipation as we made our way to the park. Of course, the two of us sat at the very front of the shuttle so we could be the first two to step into the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World! After what seemed to be the longest bus ride of all time, as Allison repeated, "I'm so excited I could run and get there faster than this!" we finally arrived only a few minutes after 9...AM.
It rained, and rained, and rained, but the bright smiles that filled every face of our Able campers and staff were radiant enough that even the sunniest day would seem dim in comparison. We played, ate expensive Disney food, rode a ton of rides with little to no wait, thanks to our abundant disability and flash passes, and played some more. I, along with some of our most energized campers, stayed at the park until 11 that night. Although some of our friends became worn out and went back to the hotel to nap and refuel, majority of our adventurers came back at 9 PM to watch the electrical show and fireworks! Louis and I, having been at the park for a little over 12 hours at that point, decided to dance while we waited for the show.
In the weeks leading up to our Camp Able Disney Reunion, I found myself frustrated and fearing that I was falling back into my struggle with depression, while also drowning in my own worries and stress. The staggering amount of snow and intense 21 mph winds bringing the windchill in Boone to an incredible -24 degrees fahrenheit, locking me away in my dorm room, was not helping either. Needless to say, this adventure could not have come at a better time. Although I strive to be optimistic in every situation, it can be easy for any of us to let bad days and busy schedules distract us from all the happiness and acts of God that we encounter on a daily basis.
Every time I leave Camp Able, I find myself in absolute awe of the love that warms every inch of my body from the presence of the special needs campers that attend. All of the best leaders and role models in my life have taught me that serving others is just one way to share the love of God with every person you come in contact with. Service has become my favorite way to spread love, and serving the campers that make up the heart of Camp Able is my favorite group of people to serve. The most rewarding acts of kindness are the ones that will never be repaid. I know that my campers will never repay me for my voluntary service, or the amount of money spent on coffee while serving them, but they have given me more love, faith, compassion and patience (seriously, lots of patience) than I ever imagined. I only hope that I can continue to make them smile and laugh in my years of service to come at Camp Able.
"Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."-Ephesians 4:1-3