MDA Summer Camp: A Chance to Make a Difference
The Muscular Dystrophy Association knows how to Make It Count for their kids! MDA holds dozens of camps across the country each summer for kids with neuromuscular diseases. During the week of June 3-7, 2013, I was fortunate enough to experience an MDA Summer Camp first hand at Camp Courage and Friendship in Maple Lake, Minn. I met kids from across the upper Midwest who experienced an amazing program and what they called their “best week of the year.”
Every counselor was assigned one camper to take care of and have responsibility for during the week. My camper, Austin, is from a small town in South Dakota, will be a sophomore in high school next year and is actively involved in another Career and Technical Student Organization, so right away we made a connection! For the next week, we fished, spent time outdoors, visited many of the friends he had made at the camp last year and had an absolutely amazing time.
My first day with Austin, I learned of some of the struggles these kids overcome each day. Many of them have to have help for nearly every single task, ranging from eating, to getting dressed, getting ready for bed, showering and using the restroom. Even during the night, sometimes nearly every hour, campers would need to be stretched, moved on their side, adjusted, or calmed. I started to realize that although some of their physical capabilities were limited, these kids were some of the most down-to-earth, genuine people I’ve ever met.
It was the third day of camp when I had the opportunity to learn more about the different neuromuscular diseases some of the campers lived with. I learned that my camper, Austin, has Duchennes, one of the most common forms of neuromuscular disease in males. Duchennes affects many parts of the body and can almost completely impair the individual. I learned that the average life span of an individual with Duchennes is between 21 and 25 years. It’s also genetic, so Austin’s brother, who also attended the camp, has the exact same disease. Understanding what Austin and his brother were living with really helped me to understand the gravity of neuromuscular diseases. Watching these kids having the time of their lives, yet realizing that some of them may not have the opportunity to live a full life, hit me hard. I felt helpless to make their situations better.
It didn’t take long for these kids to help me realize that we all can make a difference in improving the life they have been given. The millions of dollars raised by generous donations from individuals, businesses and DECA members like you, have enabled these kids to do things that they would not be able to without that support. New advances are being made every day to fight neuromuscular diseases and to find a cure for many of them. Because of our support, more advancements will be made in the next five years in fighting these diseases than were made over the past 50 years.
The week was truly life changing. It motivated me to strengthen support for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and promote fundraising and support through the Movement so that together we can show these kids that DECA members are there for them. I truly hope that this year we can grow our support of MDA and learn more about these diseases and how we can help fight them. I’ll never forget this experience.
Let’s work together to Make a Muscle, Make a Difference and Make It Count for everyone who lives with a neuromuscular disease!
Follow Carter on Twitter @DECACarter.