As summer camp comes to a close, I would like to reflect on what we have accomplished so far here at the camp this season. With 4 weeks of summer camp left, we have served a record of 700 campers so far. Our campers represent all ages and all abilities; they come from different socio-economic backgrounds and geographical areas. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and special needs through education, recreation and growth experiences which promote personal growth and foster independence.
Last week, Don Hudson of ABC4, came to camp and interviewed our campers. He asked me at the end of our visit, “What moves you here at the camp?” In February, Utah Business presented me with the “Forty Under 40” recognition and asked, “Who is your hero”?
My heroes are all of the campers we serve here at the camp. I get my inspiration from all the wonderful campers who, despite their challenges, go through life with courage, determination, and love. I learn so much from our campers. They are the ones who move me every day.
I will share with you today a story, the story of Jullian. Jullian has NeuroFibromatosis (NF), a disorder that affects 1 in 3,000 babies. Today, Julian is 20 years old. He has been coming to Camp K for about 10 years. Several of our campers with NF come from communities where there are not many other children with NF; so they have to endure a lot of misunderstanding, bullying and hardship because of this situation. When they come to Camp K, there is a good chance that it is the first time they get to meet somebody else who has the same disorder as they have. Our NF campers come from all parts of the world. Jullian is from Canada.
NF is a disorder that causes the growth of tumors at the end of nerve cells. They can grow anywhere in the body, inside or outside, on the skin. Most of the children have several surgeries in order to remove the tumors, depending where the tumors grow. Jullian has been coming to camp every year where he feels loved, accepted, normal and independent. When I met him the first time, I couldn’t tell that he had a disability. As the years went by, he came to camp in a leg brace. Two years ago, when I picked him up at the airport, he was in a wheelchair. Every year, he comes joyous and excited to do all the activities at Camp K, where there are no limits. At Camp K everybody “can”, there is no “can’t”.
Two years ago, Jullian’s mom came with him to Salt Lake City. At the end of the week, she came into my office to thank me, and to tell me that right after camp he will go home to have another surgery. She started crying. She said, “Julian will have his leg amputated.” Julian missed camp last summer due to his recovery, but I was so excited to see that he was going to join us again this summer to enjoy everything Camp K has to offer: joy, independence, friends, understanding. Julian came to camp last week, and what an amazing week he had. He was able to participate in all the amazing activities that we have here at the camp. We were so amazed to see him climb the ropes course and the climbing wall, ride the horses and go swimming. Please watch this short video to see Jullian. You can also see pictures from our NF Camp last week here.
Jullian is my hero; he is an inspiration to me. When I asked him last week, how many surgeries he had so far, he responded: “8 or 10, I lost count Mircea, it doesn’t matter”. He is an amazing human being who we have so much to learn from.
Please watch this video from Madeline to sum up in 30 seconds last week of camp.
Disability is the number one cause for poverty. More than 50% of our population comes from families making less than $25,000 per year. We work really hard so we can provide scholarships to make our services available to all. I would love to ask you to join us in support of our mission as we continue providing great services to people like Julian. This is Camp K.