My mom wanted to make sure we had support from people that were like us that had sick family members, too. She wanted us to know that we weren’t alone in case something happened.
When my mom dropped off my sister and I, we cried. We didn’t want to go and begged her to take us home. Coming back from camp, we held onto our counselor and begged him to take us back to camp.
Over the past eleven years of my life, camp has become home to me. It has been where my best memories come from.
I made friends here that I know I can count on at camp and outside of camp. They are friends I will have for the rest of my life. Camp taught me how to stand up 8 times when I have been knocked down 7. Camp taught me that being me is enough and I am worth it. Camp taught me to see the world through eyes that don’t judge and love with a heart that doesn’t know hate. Camp has taught me to dance without care of being judged, and to think before I yuck someone’s yum. Camp has taught me to love myself.
Admitting to the world that you are different is the scariest thing you can do and often someone people silence their difference or they get hurt because of it.
3 years ago, I told my parents I was gay. Being raised by two Christian parents, it was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. Had I been alone before or after coming out, I don’t think I could have done it without the help of my camp family. My parents took quite some time to warm up to the idea, but until that happened, I felt alone and ashamed. I wanted to runaway. I wanted to take it all back. I wanted to pretend to be the girl they wanted. However, camp taught me that who I am is very much who I am meant to be and that regardless of how it affects others, I shouldn’t have to pretend or change. Being me was more than enough. When I was at camp, I felt no shame and I saw no judgment. When I stood up and said I was different, I knew that if the world turned its back on me, camp would always be there for me.
Camp gave me many life long friends and role models. It also gave me a best friend away from camp that I can lean on and talk to.
My mentor and I were paired up about 3 years ago. During those 3 years, I went through many tough challenges in life and luckily, I had part of camp with me to help get me through it all. I was just starting out in high school and figuring out who I was and what crowd I would be in. Along the way, I felt lost and alone, but I’d reach out my hand and know that my mentor was with me every step of the way. When I came out to my parents, I had her there to support me and help me talk to them.We went on tons of adventures and I was compelled to broaden my horizons and try new things. At the same time, I was encouraged to be the person I want to be, but also warned to slow down for things in life that can wait. Not many people have these amazing counselors in their lives to help them and for that, I feel so special.
Each year, I see new faces and old faces. I see the new ones fall in love with camp each day. There is no way to fully prepare anyone 100% for life, but when you have The Laurel Foundation in your life, it doesn’t seem so scary. You know that you aren’t alone and you know that you are respected, cared for, and loved.
My dream for the past 10 years has been to return to camp as a counselor
and give back to campers what I was given. Camp has even shaped my college and life goals in a big way! I plan on studying Social Work or going into nonprofit in hopes I can come back and be an even bigger part of camp. Usually at the end of camp, we all have sticks and make wishes and throw our sticks in a fire. I don’t have a stick and there is no fire, but my biggest wish is for The Laurel Foundation to grow and reach out to those that feel like they do not have a home. The Laurel Foundation is my home and I wish to keep returning and giving back to help others who have the same struggles/challenges that I do.