For many children with muscular dystrophy, MDA Summer Camp is the highlight of their year. This week is a time when they can have some independence away from their families and try things they may never have done before. At camp, lifelong friendships are formed and great memories are made.
I know all about the magic of MDA Summer Camp because I’ve been a counselor there since I was a teenager. After that first week of volunteering at camp I knew I wanted to come back year after year. Like it is for the kids, camp week is always one of the best weeks of my year!
Along with all the fun memories, my life has been changed by going to MDA Summer Camp. I have made so many wonderful friends. These friendships are so important to me; I really consider them to be a second family. Our friendships aren’t just for one week of the year. We stay in contact and are part of each other’s lives throughout the year.
In addition to these awesome friendships, MDA Summer Camp connected me to the man who would go on to become my husband. In 2008 I crossed paths with Zach. As a counselor busy with my camper, I didn’t get to spend much time with Zach that week. But when we ran into each other at parties that our camp friends threw throughout the year, we quickly became close friends. There were many phone calls and long texting conversations. We found ourselves always seeking each other out to share good news, funny stories, or even hard situations we were facing. Over time we became closer and closer. After a while we realized we wanted to be more than friends.
Zach is a funny, caring, and intelligent guy who has muscular dystrophy. His smile lights up a room! He loved all the things I loved about camp including the friendships and activities, as well as the independence it provided him as a camper. We both still love summer camp! In fact, we now do a camp for adults with physical disabilities together each summer. In September 2015, we had a ceremony to celebrate our relationship with all of our family and friends. When planning a guest list, we knew our camp family would be a big part of our special day! To the right is a picture of the majority of them who were able to attend, and my nephew (hopefully a future volunteer!!) who snuck in at the bottom.
We are so happy to have all these camp memories and to have found each other in this way. However, camp is just one aspect of our lives. We are also blessed to have an amazing support system in our families and friends. We love to travel and are always seeking out new and exciting things we can experience together. Our contacts at MDA through camp and care centers help us throughout the year as well. Looking back, neither one of us went to camp expecting to meet the person we’d one day marry. I am so thankful for my experiences at MDA camp from my teen years; they opened my heart to this relationship. I can’t imagine my life without Zach. We can’t imagine our lives without our camp family or MDA Summer Camp.