Sunday, July 24, 2016

Camp Able 2016: One Love

On Wednesday July 13th, at approximately 10 AM, Camp Able staff lined the entrance of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Marco Island, Florida. After two rigorous days of staff training and a years-worth of anticipation, it is finally time for the campers to arrive, transforming Marco Island into Camp Able's playground, utilizing the church as home base. Old and new friends arrive one by one, greeted with hollering, sweaty hugs and a sea of smiles. This is our family. This our home.

Camp Able Marco had 54 campers and 120 volunteer staff this summer; a record-breaking count to celebrate its tenth year of fun. Some of us travel from places as far as Mississippi, Atlanta, North Carolina, Los Angeles and Chicago as we come together to pursue true joy. With the Bob Marley inspired theme, "One Love", each member of Camp Able arrives more determined than ever to experience, create and embrace this special love that molds our hearts.

Once the business of checking-in is taken care of, the counselors guide our friends to a long list of morning activities they can choose from. The options include paddle boarding and kayaking, fishing, a day at the spa, tubing, movies and mini golf, a trip to the shooting range or a relaxing morning on the beach, just to name a few. Morning activities are followed by lunch, rest period, dinner and a special evening event to bring the Able family together after a day of exploration. Counselors reach Fitbit step goals and chug at least three heavily caffeinated Starbucks drinks before noon, so we can chase happiness alongside our campers without reservation. As the week progresses, it becomes more and more challenging to distinguish campers from counselors.

Throughout our days together, we gather to sing the theme song, a mash-up of Bob Marley's "One Love" and "I Don't Think" by Sowflo. 
The boys sing:
"One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel alright"
While the girls accompany with:
"I don't think this world might change for us
But in the process we may better ourselves
Let's change the world"

The impeccable timing of Camp Able, the role it plays in my life and its influence on my worldview never ceases to amaze me. We are currently living in a nation that is overcome by hate, in a world that is controlled by fear. I will be turning twenty in the beginning of August, having already completed my first two years of college. I look at the state of the world surrounding me, and I am terrified of what I am stepping into. I am afraid for the future of our nation. I am afraid for the well-being of mankind. I am afraid that my efforts will never be enough. This world needs understanding, tolerance and compassion. We need unity. We need love.

Camp Able never allows me to dismiss or forget the beauty this world still has to offer, despite the negativity that seems to be drowning us. Our campers do not have disabilities, they have diverse abilities, just like everybody else. We all have flaws and faults as well as strengths and gifts. It is a necessity that we accept and acknowledge the importance of "diversability" as we come together in order to achieve "one love, one heart." The spirit of Camp Able makes me feel significant. It gives me hope and a sense of purpose. Every moment at Camp Able is saturated with love and joy. Now, we must work to bring this peace and acceptance to the rest of the world. With the strength of our family, I have faith that the world can come together despite our differences. Love will conquer all. Let's change the world.

What does Camp Able mean to you?

- Katie Jernigan & Andrea Feeney

- Nuria Ferreria & Kaylee Janett

"Honest love"
-Olivia Orr

"Acceptance; safe haven"
-Maggie Neeley

"Pure love"
-Anthoni Andretti

"Unconditional love & acceptance & safe FUN!"
-Patrick Smith-Clan

"A place to be your whole self, without judgement. A place of equality and everlasting friendships between all individuals. Where we recognize that disabilities exists in all of us, but we choose to embrace them as a part of our being. A place where individuals are not labeled as campers, but as friends."
-Maria Pollara

"Family & relentless love"
-Caroline Santos

"Laughter, joy, hugs & loving grace"
-Denise Beasley

"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. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love."
-Ephesians 4:1-2
© Unapologetic
Maira Gall