and that means FUN!
This was my fifth year attending the deaf-blind camp session at
West River Camp in Maryland. Without a doubt, this was my best
year ever. I don't know what made it so special. I just really
had a good time.
I met so many people at camp. I enjoyed talking to SSP's who
volunteer to help the campers during the week. But what I
really like is meeting other people who are deaf-blind. At home,
I'm the only deaf-blind person in my area. I'm different no
matter where I go or what I do.
At camp. there are so many other people like me. They really
understand the challenges of being deaf-blind. We can relate to
each other, share stories, ideas and support one another. That
is such an amazing experience.
So here is my camp diary for this year. I hope you enjoy it. I
know I sure did.
Sunday, June 13
Like last year, I flew to Maryland on my own. I don't mind
traveling by myself. My parents take me to the gate. The
airline people help me on the plane and then pretty much leave me
alone during the flight. That's okay. I mostly just sleep and
day dream. Then people from camp meet me at the other gate in
Baltimore. They help me find my bags and then drive me to camp.
It's no big deal.
Registration was not as chaotic as usual. I checked in and then
began meeting new people and finding old friends. We pretty
much just chatted with each other to start with
It was HOT! The first activity was motorcycle rides. I love
riding on the motorcycles but the temperature was in the upper
90's. I was not about to put on long pants, which is a
requirement. So I decided to skip the rides this year.
So what did I do? More socializing. There are just so many
people to talk to at camp.
After dinner we had a welcome meeting, discussion of rules and
talk about camp activities and trips. I hate to be negative but
Blah, blah blah. I've heard it all before. Same old thing every
People asked so many questions. It just went on and on. We were
running late for the schedule games. Finally we had snack. I
didn't play the game that night. I usually don't. I talked to
people and then headed to bed. I was tired.
Monday, June 14
For this morning, we were able to choose to do many different
activities at camp. Each camper can choose what they want to do.
There's so much to do at camp. I could never do it all.
The day started with the usual group photo. We take the picture
on Monday and then everyone gets a copy to take home on Friday.
It takes a little time to get in place and get the picture done.
After that, I went on a boat ride. I love boats. I can smell
the water and gasoline from the engine. I like the feel of the
waves and the sun on my skin. It makes me feel so alive.
In the afternoon, I had a manicure. Okay, that's weird for me.
I'm not exactly a girly-girl. I am a hopeless nail biter. It's
embarrassed to communicate with people using tactile sign
language when I have jagged nails and stupid hang nails. so I
went for a manicure.
Then I got a much needed hair cut. It felt good to get that
awful hair out of my eyes and away from my face. It always
strikes me as ironic that they do these "creature Comforts"
after the picture. They immortalize our plain old selves and
then set us free to become beautiful. Strange.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. I just kind of
floated around in the water while I talked with lots of people.
It was hard to keep my balance in the water and use sign language
at the same time. But if I fell, that was okay. There's no
getting hurt in the water. It's the one place where falls feel
good and refreshing.
We had a hay ride and camp fire after dinner. I didn't go on the
hay ride. Again, it was too hot for long clothes and I didn't
want to risk getting bugs bites from the hay. I enjoyed the camp
fire, though. I ate S'Mores, which were sticky and heavenly
good. And, yes, I talked to more people.
Tuesday, June 15
This was field trip day. We went to Six Flags. It's a popular
activity for many of the campers. It's not often when we can go
to places like amusement parks and actually have enough support
to go on rides and stuff.
I'm a chicken. I don't like rides. But I still enjoy going to
Six Flags. I just like being out there in the real world with
people who can actually communicate with me. Plus, I like the
food and shopping.
I spent half of the day in the water park. I was bummed that the
Lazy River was closed. I loved the beach wave pool, though. It
was a real blast.
They actually let me take a wheelchair in the water. So at
first, I sa in the wheelchair while the waves splashed over my
lap. It was so cool!
When the water calmed, I got up to swim. My SSP's help me. When
the waves started up again, I floated, bobbed and jumped around
all over the place. I had so much fun.
I couldn't go on any of the water slides because there were just
too many steps to get to the top. So after the pool, we went
into the kid's area and I got to see all the fountains and
decorations that sprayed water. Again, we took the wheelchair
into the water. I was sitting down while I got squirted with
water. Sometimes we rode over a gush of water and I got spayed
right in the butt. That was sort of weird.
Then it got gray and cloudy. We got dressed and went for lunch.
It started to rain for a little while. I bought a bag of
doughnuts... yum, yum! Then I went shopping and got a few gifts
for JD. By then, it was time to go back to camp.
After dinner, we played Bingo. I missed the beginning because I
was talking to JD on the phone with the help of my SSP's. Bingo
was not so good for me this year. It seemed like I would never
win. I finally won the last round of the night and got a bag of
I was soooo tired. So even though it was still kind of early, I
went right to bed.
Wednesday, June 16
It was another "pick your activity" day at camp. Unfortunately,
the weather was not so good. it was gray and rained on and off.
I began at arts and crafts. They had many different objects
that campers could paint and decorate. I decided to paint a
The treasure chests were part of the camp theme. This year was
Pirates so many activities and crafts had to do with pirate
stuff and sea life. The treasure chests could be decorated with
all sorts of wood cutout shapes, sand, shells, grass and more.
Some of the campers made really nice treasure chests.
I'm not much of an artist, though. Plus, I wanted to give this
box to JD for a specific purpose. He needs a storage box for his
growing collection of Silly Bands. The treasure chest was the
perfect size. Since this was a box to actually be used by a nine
year old boy, I decided to keep it very plain and simple.
I painted the entire box green, in honor of JD's favorite video
game character. Then I painted two whale cutouts blue, because
that's his favorite color.
The paint needed time to dry so I headed to the tech expo. I
made it into the building but not to the technology. At this
time, someone introduced me to a very interesting woman who I was
quit pleased to meet and talk to. Her son is another camper.
he is deaf-blind and in a wheelchair. Like me, he has some kind
of Mitochondrial disorder. This is a rare condition was it was
amazing to meet someone else who has lived through the same kind
of problems. It turns out that my story is so similar to her
son's experiences. It was just such a moving moment to talk
with this woman.
I went back to the tech expo after lunch. This turned out to be
a real disappointment. The only technology they had for
someone who is totally deaf-blind was the DBC and James Remind-O
clock. I have both of those already. There was nothing new for
me to learn about.
The sky was still gray but the rain had stopped for awhile. I
decided to go on another boat ride. I almost fell getting into
the boat. I like boat rides but getting on and off is a
After that, I went back to the art area to work on my treasure
chest. I glued a blue whale onto each side of the green box.
Last year, I painted a monkey figure for JD. He is such a little
monkey and he really liked it. He keeps the figure on the top
shelf in his room with his favorite treasures. They had other
figures this year so I painted another monkey for him. This one
is eating a banana. I think he'll like it.
Here's the thing about painting. I paint my fingers more than
the actual item. Then my SSP's help me find all the spots I
missed and touched up anything that doesn't look good.
My fingers were a majestic mix of green, blue and brown this
year. Thank goodness for soap and water.
After dinner, we had a lecture for "under the sea" night. They
talked about the Gulf Coast oil spill. It was interesting and I
now have a better appreciation of how bad this disaster is for
the US. Many campers asked questions about the topic, too.
After the lecture, we could visit tables to fell all kinds of sea
related items. There were shells, star fish, coral, ropes,
anchors and old model ships. It was all so tactile.
They also had a big treasure chest full of sand, beads, shells
and objects. Campers got to dig through the sand to find a few
treasures to keep. I thought it was a cute activity. I picked
out a shell shaped candle.
For this night, I had donated pirate themed Silly Bands. Each
camper and SSP got to choose which shaped bracelet they wanted.
There were pirates, mermaids, anchors, parrots and boat wheels.
I mention this because of a funny story involving a Silly Band
I didn't know this before so I didn't think to warn people. It
turns out that the Silly Bands glow in the dark. An SSP
accidently discovered this. She took her new Silly Band off
before going to bed. She woke up in the middle of the night to
find an anchor glowing in the dark near her bed. Freaky and
Thursday, June 17
I started the morning with my all time favorite activity - riding
the banana boat. Oh.... I love it! We bounced on the waves as
the water sprayed up in my face. I held on for dear life and
screamed with excitement. I don't like amusement park rides but
I love the banana boat. Go figure.
And, no, I did not fall into the water. That was my fourth time
riding the banana boat at camp over the years and I have never
The bad news is that one of my SSP's got hurt this morning. I
swear I didn't break her! I was no where near her when it
happened. She was walking in the grass and stepped on a rock.
She fell and hurt her ankle. She had to go to the ER but
luckily, it wasn't broken. However, it was a slow morning as we
all dealt with the crisis.
Campers had a choice this afternoon. We could go on a field
trip to the mall, go bowling or stay at camp. I was planning on
going to the mall. I love to shop. But it was such a beautiful
day. The weather was so perfect. I decided to stay at camp
First I went to the art center to finish up my two projects. Or
should I say, I instructed my team on how to finish them. I had
one person paint JD's full name on the treasure box in blue to
match ther whales. My new SSP's 13 year old daughter worked on
my monkey. She painted the banana and the monkey's face for me.
The pool was ready to open by the time we finished. I spent two
hours swimming. I used a kick board and floated around the pool
on my stomach. It felt wonderful!
After dinner we had a big "end of camp" party. Mostly I talked
to people.... many, many people. I also played hot potato, ate
junk food and danced to a few tunes. Yes, I admit it. I did
the Hokey Pokey. I probably looked like a total dork but it was
sort of fun.
I was exhausted by the time the music stopped. My legs, back and
shoulders were killing me. But every time I tried to leave the
party, some one else came over to talk. We were all sad to say
good bye and didn't want the night to end.
Friday, June 18
Curse my father for booking such an early flight! I had to leave
camp at 7:30 am. I didn't even make it to breakfast and didn't
get to see many people that morning.
The flight home was fine. I slept the whole way. I could not
seem to keep my eyes open. Now i'm home and it's back to life as
normal. I certainly came away from camp with good new memories.
I'll tell you one thing... Camp is fun!