Hi Everyone my name is “Spike” which is my camp name or Erik in the real world.
I have been fortunate enough to be apart of Camp Laurel and The Laurel Foundation. It has changed my life.
My sister was diagnosis with AIDS and passed when I was 10 years old, She had a son Anthony who was 3 when she passed.
Living life in the real world was hard, people were scared of us. At that time people where prejudice, crude, and scared.
It was like I had to be secretive about my sister having AIDS and then secret about her passing, just to fit in. My family was devastated we all were finding ways to cope with life and it was hard.
My mom, went on to educated women about HIV/AIDS and got connected with organizations to learn more about the virus, and she found The Laurel Foundation.
Thank God She did. Home life was a bit of a mess: my parents were divorcing, my grandfather passed away, and I was giving in to peer pressure. I was a very rebellious child at the age of 13. I went to my first camp and I will never forget it.
It was a Fall Camp Laurel session and it was a trip to Space Camp in Northern California. I had never really been outside of Los Angeles so I was scared to meet all these new people. I came to realize that it was so much fun and then something happened. I got into some serious trouble. I was very rebellious and was told I would be sent home. Scared I pleaded that I would change my behavior. I have never been in a place where I was so accepted, free from society and free from the prejudices of HIV/AIDS. I didn’t want to go home. Margot Anderson (the Founder), bless her heart, saw something in me and gave me a second chance. Needless to say I was good from then on. I even received the Apollo award, at a later camp program, for being such a great role model for other campers. Me a role model, yes! From that one moment at my first camp my life was forever changed. I found a family that understood me, an extension of who I am.
I loved camp so much that when I started to grow up and it was time for me to move on … I just couldn’t! I decided to become a camp counselor.
Being the first or one of the first people to go from camper to counselor was an amazing experience. It gave me huge respect for the counselors I had as a child and all counselors. It was long hours, but so worth it. Plus, I had the energy for it. I loved my cabin kids and I saw myself in them at their age. Now I was able to give back to them, what The Laurel Foundation had given to me so graciously. It was the best time I had ever had.
But it didn’t stop there! So remember how I said my mom was a bit of a crusader well it’s true my mom suggested we create an AIDS Ride for The Laurel Foundation.
The ride was suggested to The Laurel Foundation by my mom and with the help of MANY, it was created. It was FANTASTIC and continues today as an annual fundraiser for The Laurel Foundation! My mom rode every year up until she couldn’t and then I jumped in and rode. My first bike was a mountain bike, heavy and rough. Every year after that first ride I would get better things … like a bike!
It is my highlight of my year to raise money and give back to The Laurel Foundation. Riding for the kids is an amazing experience.
The Laurel Foundation has change my life and given me a sense of self, honesty, fun, and family.
I am fortunate to have The Laurel Foundation in my life because if they weren’t, my life would be VERY DIFFERENT.
Thank you Margot for that second chance.
Thank you Laurel Foundation.