Everyone’s paradise is usually tropical in nature. A hot sun, sandy beaches, and clear blue water. Or it’s sitting on a mountain top with blue skies as far as the eye can see. Usually people’s paradise is somewhere quiet. It’s their own piece of peace that no one else can access.
My paradise is in Paradise, Texas. How perfect right? Camp Summit is an outdoor camping experience that promotes growth and independence for individuals living with different abilities.
My paradise is much different. It is the dirt on my feet, and the smell of bug spray. Some of these things people would never even think of doing, let alone enjoy. My paradise is the smell of grass as it blows through the wind. Sometimes, it’s the smell and the feeling of rain as it fills the air.
My paradise comes with the laughter I hear, the songs I sing. My paradise is holding hands while walking to the next activity. My paradise is a place that I can be myself and my campers and co-workers can be themselves too. It’s a place where there is no judgement. Where campers and staff can leave their worries at the gate and come to just be who they truly are. No one at camp knows where you come from, what I have done in my past. Instead, I am embraced for who I am and I am supported.
My paradise is the accomplishments that are made daily. “I rode a horse for the first time today” or “I got to see my camp friend at lunch today.” It is the lessons that are taught to me by campers. “Don’t give up, you can do it try again.” My paradise is where the ones who have no voice are given one and are allowed and encouraged to be authentically themselves with no one holding them back.
I have heard people tell me that I make a difference in their campers lives. Little do they know how much the campers impact me. I have had campers tell me things that have stuck with me in the most difficult of times. I always get told thank you for being so loving towards individuals with disabilities, but instead It is them that give me the love that I can never put into words.
My paradise is where someone can show their talents at the talent show, and dance their hearts out with their friends at the dance. It’s a place for people to be social, to make friends, to have the time of their life.
It’s crazy to me how one place can mean so much. Every time I have a chance, I go to camp, and all my worries, all my stresses, all I am frustrated about goes away for a brief time. It’s like time just stops, but everything is all so happy. I feel like my troubles go away when I walk in and one of my favorite campers comes up and hugs me and says, “HI!! I missed you!!” Everything I am worried about disappears, and I put everything on hold so that I can be present to make sure that my campers have an enjoyable time, and for my own mental break.
Some people would think I am crazy for thinking that taking a break is getting three hours of sleep a night, not showering for days, and having dirt and bug spray everywhere. But for me, the smiles, and laughs, and the fact that campers can just be themselves makes it all worth it. Spending even a brief time like a weekend at camp puts my mind at ease. I am excited to go back, and I am blue when I must leave.
In a way, camp is my easiest hello, and my hardest good-bye.
Camp Summit is my Paradise.
Ginger Juelfs joined the Camp Summit Team in 2013, working and volunteering for several seasons as a Camp Counselor and Horse Wrangler. When not at camp, Ginger works as a professional caregiver and is currently studying Social Work at Texas State University.