Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Happiest of Happy Places

Last week was "summer fun time out in the sunshine!"  Camp Discovery time!  For the seventh summer in a row, I was the Arts and Crafts Coordinator for Camp Discovery, a kids camp for children with cancer ages 7-16.  If you're a long time follower of my blog, you know that it's my happy place.  My happiest of happy places really.  For about two weeks leading up to camp, I found myself constantly thinking about it.  I was even described by a friend as sounding like a giddy 8 yr old when I talk about camp.  I love it.  I love the people, the kids, the activities, the crafts and projects we do, the cheesy songs that get stuck in your head for days on end.  I love it all. 

This was my BEST summer yet at camp.  Our arts and crafts schedule was more packed than usual, with the campers coming to our area four times during the week per cabin group instead of their usual three times.  We did major projects.  Not just one, but three, plus more beading time than we've ever had.  The campers were awesome.  The counselors are truly some of the best people I know. 

Seven of us flew into San Antonio from Dallas and arrived to the hospital where we meet each year to load up our stuff and head out to Kerrville where our camp is.  My first year, I remember watching all these people hug for the first time after not seeing each other for a year and feeling a bit awkward.  I knew no one and they were greeting each other as if they were at a family reunion seeing loved ones they held dear.  I stood and watched as they all hugged and found a group of other newbies so we could awkwardly stand together.  Now, seven summers later, I am a part of that family and a part of that reunion.  THE HUGS.  Oh, the hugs I got when I arrived.  I can't tell you how badly I needed those hugs or those people.  After months of pain with the separation and divorce, I needed to be there with this special family of mine, enveloped by their friendship and love. 

We pulled into the camp and a counselor said, "we're home, guys."  Yes, we were.  For the next week, that was our home.  We would have Happy Nappy time, activities, a carnival, dining hall food for breakfast lunch and dinner, a dance, and so much more.  Most importantly, we would be working with some of the most inspirational and amazing children.  There was a fourteen year old girl with a prosthetic leg (coolest prosthetic ever with the entire thing detailed with a photo of the Beatles) who had not been able to be without her crutches at all in PT.  What did she do at camp?  SALSA DANCE.  Now THAT is the magic of camp. 

I could (and do) talk incessantly about camp and what we do.  I could tell you for hours about songs, funny things people said or did, our late nights getting ice cream after the campers were in bed, and of course, about the campers.  I could tell you how I was ridiculously stupid happy every single day.  The happiest I've been in MONTHS. 

Camp is magical. 

We are not allowed to share photos that include campers, but here are some other camp photos.  This doesn't even scratch the surface of how great Camp Discovery truly is.  Pictures will never fully be able to do that. 

On the plane with Charlie.  Charlie has been a great friend for years and I am so thankful for his friendship over the past few months.  He's really been here for me.  

On the plane silliness

The Arts and Crafts room.  My home away from home!

Me and Amy.  Love this girl and all her snarkiness  

The tough part about being at camp--being away from my loves.  Luckily, Andrew set up FaceTime on my MacBook and I was able to see the girls a few times during the week and called every day. 

Paint isn't just for birdhouses, you know! 

To go with our hero theme, we had wounded soldiers from the Center for the Intrepid join us on Tuesday of camp.  These three guys hung out with us in A&C for an activity period and were incredibly inspiring

Amy excited to tie dye.  We only did it this year because she loves it and begged me.  

I'm not so much a fan of the tie dye

And this would be why.  After two straight days of tie dye (this photo is after day one), I still have dye in my cuticles one week later.  It's chaos and messy as heck, but the shirts turned out great and the kids had fun.  

Took this photo for Maggie.  We had a superhero theme week, so this was me ready for our dance.  Amazing what being 50 lbs less will do for you--I danced almost the whole time.  White girl, uncoordinated dance moves, of course, but I danced!  HAHA

New activity this year.  Watched The Incredibles outside after our campfire.  Very cool

I always love the chalk art that happens in my room every year

Indication we did a LOT in A&C this year--this is all empty boxes we threw away!

It's not Camp Discovery without JELLO WARS! Picture a soccer field filled with baggies of jello, cans of whipped cream and a five minute free for all.  Disgusting yet so much fun!

Me and Charlie right after Jello Wars.  I blame him for the glop of whipped cream in my ear!

Gotta love a guy who rocks purple tights to jello wars.  :)  My friend Brandon

Love counselors.  My job is work, but NOTHING compared to all the work they put in during camp.  

Johnny, our Co-Director.  Highly respect this man.  

She was happy with the end result of her tie dyed creation.  Worth it 


Mandy said...

I live in Kerrville now and saw a story about the Lions Camp in the newspaper. I had no idea it was the same camp. What a great week for all of yoU!

Heatheralli said...

You look so happy and carefree in these pictures. I am in awe of all that you do. I know those kids love being around you just as much as you love being there. I've read through the years when you've gone to camp but love being able to see some pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Lyndsay said...

Love the smiles! So happy you had a great week.
It's a wonderful thing that you and all the volunteers do for the kids. Those carefree days mean more to them than most people can understand.
(I'm a childhood cancer survivor so I kind of know the drill.)

tricia said...

What wonderful times you all provide for these kids.!

Jenny, it's the happiest and most beautiful you have looked since I began following you during Allie's illness. You are glowing from the inside out! Girl, it shows. You look so young.

Zhohn said...

You look so happy in these pictures, glad you had a much needed great time. You look AWESOME!!!
Sending hugs.

Dusty said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; YOU are amazing.

Theresa said...

So glad you got to head to camp again this year, i remember the first year you went. I also remember how horrified the idea of arts and crafts used to be to you LOL
You look so happy in these pictures, i'm glad your time there brought some joy to your beautiful heart.

Auntie Mip said...

I leave for camp on Saturday and cannot wait! I am director of nursing for a family camp for children with cancer. I have been there for 16 years...I love that we have siblings there and parents. It is my favorite week of the year. I am especially happy today because a 3 year old I have been worried about had her ANC rebound and so she can come...yeah! Hooray for cancer camp!

Angie said...

I have been reading about your camp adventures since Allie passed away. I am so glad that you went this year and so glad to see such a happy face on you. You and the girls are always in my prayers. <3

Rebecca said...

You look AWESOME!! Congrats on the weight loss!! (I've lost 70lbs so I know all about it)!!!

Robin said...

Looks like another awesome week for you! That's terrific. You look fantastic too. Glad camp made you feel fantastic as well.

Angie said...

Fantastic photos! You're an amazing woman, and my gawd - you've gotten so skinny!!!! You look great, girl!

gretchen said...

I have read your blog for years and just wanted to tell you that you look awesome! Great work! You look happy! Much love to you.

timi68 said...

i TOO remember your first camp adventures! Look how far you've come! I'm so happy that you're happy! you look PHENOMENAL....if I didn't know how old you were, I'd say you were no more than 18!! Enjoy this time in your life! Enjoy the compliments too! YOU DESERVE THEM!!!!!! (((HUGS)))

Sarah said...

U look AWESOME!!! I too have been following your blog for years. Never have I "seen" you so happy. Can't help but be so incredibly happy for you.

Elizabeth said...

I LUV these pictures, especially the ones on the plane with the Southwest Airlines logo in the background (I work in the Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards Department at SWA)! Glad you had a blast at camp! :)