Sunday, December 6, 2009

Camp Sunshine Weekend: Sydni & me.

I believe in angels. I've met quite a few in my lifetime. I've been blessed that way. This weekend, I met several more. Among them, was Sydni.

A few months ago, I sent in an application to Camp Sunshine to volunteer for one of their weekend sessions. Camp Sunshine is a camp for severally ill children and their families. It's an amazing place and I have been wanting to go for some time, but their camp schedule, my work schedule and getting to Maine, had been making it difficult. I was accepted as a one-to-one counselor for their December weekend which was for children with brain tumors and their families. I had no idea what a one-to-one counselor did, but I didn't care. I knew I would figure it out when I got there. I've volunteered at Camp Sunshine and similar camps before and also volunteer fairly regularly at the Ronald McDonald House; I was confident I could handle it.

When I arrived at Camp late Friday morning, I received my volunteer information packet and was informed that my one-to-one camper was a 5 year old named Sydni. I was told that she was in a wheel chair and that she was non-verbal due to brain injuries during surgery. No problem!, I thought. I can totally handle this and I eagerly awaited Sydni's arrival.

Friday evening, Sydni arrived. I met her and her family at dinner. And to say I was unprepared for the extent of her disability is an understatement. I won't go into the extent of it here, it's not the place and not the point (I promise). But, that Friday night, I left dinner feeling completely overwhelmed. I was afraid that I had gone in over my head. For someone who has been in the "cancer world" for a long time, my fear and sadness and feelings of complete helplessness, shocked me to the core. I got to my room, closed the door and broke down in tears. I knew I would get through the weekend, but as I admitted to my mom, it was going to be a really hard one. And, as I admitted to myself, it was going to be a great deal more emotionally draining than I could ever have imagined. I was afraid.

And then, Saturady came. My first full day with Sydni. Mom told me she likes to be rocked and sung to. She likes you to be close to her so that she can see you (she's also visually impaired). She likes to laugh. She helped me lift her onto my lap as I sat in the rocker. And, my day began. We rocked. I sang (or tried to). Sydni laughed a lot and smiled and cooed along with my songs. I've met a lot of angels in my life. This weekend, I met a very special one. Sydni. She may not be able to talk, or see well or interact with the world as most people do, but her soul is beautiful. She smiles and everything is better. "Being with Sydni is the best therapy", her mom said. And I couldn't agree more.

Some of you will read this and think that I am strong, and brave and giving for spending my weekend with Sydni, but it's not true. Not true at all. I am weak and scared. Sydni is the brave one. She is the one with all the strength. I learned more about the human spirit from her in one hour, than I could ever have thought possible. She gave me the strength to get through the weekend. If Sydni can laugh and smile and sing despite all of the odds against her, I realized, that I not only could too, but I had to. That's what angels do. They teach you to go beyond yourself and your limits to something more. They are what makes the world beautiful. And, Sydni makes the world magnificent.

I spent this weekend rocking and singing and smiling and laughing. I could not have done any of this without Sydni to lead me.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Hi Olivia,
I've vol'd at CS for years (I've been a 1-1 during BT fall session actually) and interned for the development dept this summer. I LOVED your entry (I have a google alert for Camp Sunshine that found your blog). I would suggest printing it out and mailing it or emailing it to Ashley Riley or Mike Katz at Camp, because either one might be able to utilize some of the material for publications/volunteer training.

I remember Sydni and YES, WOW... she is incredible but certainly a huge responsibility. Her mom's an inspiration to me (and so are you, now- 1-1 is TIRING!)

Hey did you happen to see an 8 year old named Sterling this weekend? He is blind and typically by himself with his 1-1... loves to sing and play the piano, love the computer lab. I couldn't make it out to CS to see him and was curious to know if he went and how he did!

Have a merry December!