My medical school hosts an amazing summer camp for children with special needs and disabilities, and I am so proud to say that I had the opportunity to be apart of it this year. Also, I am proud to say that I attend such a medical school. A medical school that values special needs kids and created such an awesome program for them to get together and create special moments with each other!
A first year medical student is paired with a second year medical student and we both serve as co-counselors to one special camper. I cannot express how rewarding this camp was to me. The veteran counselors informed us that these kids look forward to this camp every year and now I know why! They said that some kids literally mark off their calendars everyday until it’s time for them to go to Camp Tiger. Now, I will be doing the same in anticipation for next year!
The campers are the sweetest and most genuine souls that I have ever encountered, all 112 of them. We are given information about our specific camper a week before the camp begins so we can research and become familiar with their disability. By the time the first day of camp approached, I could tell you everything there was to know about autism and the efforts that have been put in motion to bring awareness to autism. I was ready for the first day of camp, and I will never forget my first interaction with my camper. It was the first day of camp and his mom had just dropped him off. I said, “Hi! My name is Chelsi and I’ll be your counselor for the wholeeee week” He looked at up at me, smiled (one of those cute little smiles without showing his teeth), and said, “Oh um, nice to meet you chelsi, my name is Bobby, I am 7, and I have autism (inserts cute little smile absent of teeth again)” I’m pretty sure my heart melted into my stomach. I mean, c’mon, wouldn’t yours?
Throughout the week we went on 2 AMAZING field trips a day with the kids, and each night there were events scheduled for the counselors so that we had the chance to meet our new classmates. Work hard, play hard, right? Well, it was more like, play hard, play hard, because I had so much fun with the campers! Yes, each day I was even more tired than the last (I live in New Orleans, our bars and clubs do not close so YES I was HELLA tired), but I would do it over and over again.
Participation in Camp Tiger was completely optional, but there was no question that I would participate. Nothing could replace the feeling of seeing the biggest smiles on the smallest little people. If you are just staring a new medical school, I definitely recommend participating in outreach initiatives, activities, and service programs. Get involved and invest in others!