In 2020, I volunteered to serve at Camp Freedom. Hosted by Southeast Christian Church at Country Lake Christian Retreat, Camp Freedom is a 3-day, 2-night camp for those 10 years and older with an intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disability. It was my first year serving and my first real experience at a camp like this. […]
Once the dust settled from camp and I was able to collect my thoughts, I reflected back on a specific memory relating to the beach and how it impacted my camper. Here is a portion of the blog I wrote then:
My buddy, diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, utilized a motorized wheelchair to navigate his world. Less likely to have been noticed if you zoomed out, would have been the exact spot where we were standing, which was at the end of the paved area directly before the sand and grass began. The beach that initially seemed to be “just right there” suddenly felt so far away, and in an instant, an impossibility for us.
This year was quite different and if anything, it is a testament to the work that goes behind the scenes to make Camp Freedom better every single year. To begin with, this year saw a record number in attendance. This camp started 20 years ago with approximately 13 campers. I am told it was not overnight, but a day camp and held in a single building. This year there were 150+ campers with over 300 people total in attendance and we basically took over the entire camp area.
Several improvements have been made since I first started serving, but the first that really stood out to me was the beach. That memory from my first year was still etched in my mind. On Friday night, when all the volunteers arrived early, I walked over to the beach to take a glance because it was so calm, the calmest it would be all weekend.
I was so happy when I saw an accessible ramp had been added which meant the ending of the pavement was not the end for anyone. This temporary ramp allowed campers to navigate the beach sand easier than in previous years, making the lake a possibility.
I am not alone in this, as many other volunteers have mentioned it as well, but one of our favorite sights at camp are the wheelchairs, left sitting in random spots, with nobody in them. It is almost like a tiny preview of what heaven may look like.
There were several other changes made, such as more accessible showers in all the cabins, and numerous other improvements, all of which proved to me that those in charge are listening and doing whatever possible to make sure camp is accessible to everyone.
It’s one of a million reasons why this camp is so important to me.
However, we can take this same approach and apply it elsewhere, not just at camps and outings.
What You Can Do?
These changes, big and small, have huge implications. Not every change has to be epic. Starting simple and having an intentional focus on improvements will go a long way. If you don’t have a camp like Camp Freedom, that is perfectly fine, there are plenty of ways to implement changes starting with your church. The best place to start is with our First Impressions resource.
Jason joins the Ability Ministry team and brings over 20 years of graphic design and marketing experience to the table. He has handled projects from local start-up businesses to publicly owned internationally based companies, including a Shark Tank company. Jason currently reside in Louisville with his wife, two daughters, and dog Pepper. In his spare time, he is a Master’s competitor in USA Weightlifting. His family attends Southeast Christian Church.