09 December 2006

best weekend ever.

I take back what I said about not liking children. Apparently I just didn't know the right ones. Everyone should go volunteer at Camp Boggy Creek. Right now. Download the application and submit it today. If you're not in the greater southeastern United States, sew a bear or make a quilt or afghan for the kids. So how did heartless Jessica end up at a kid's camp? After Matt told me about his amazing time at camp, I was inspired. He's generally pretty bright, so when I enrolled in Exceptional People and had to fulfill my service hours, I figured this was as good a time as any to see if all the hype was true.

It was. This place is incredible. The kids are amazing. Someone said that all world leaders should come to camp and experience the "Boggy spirit," and speaking as a cynic who loves the Middle East dearly, I agree. It was the most positive, supportive, and flat-out inspiring 48 hours I've ever witnessed. Dozens of kids playing together, no fighting, no teasing, just pure love and encouragement. You'd see a couple of kids playing a game together, and another one would want to play, so they'd pass the ball over or give up their ping pong paddle, no questions asked, no whining. There's a talent show on the last day, and I've never seen people, let alone kids, cheer for each other like that. If someone forgot the words to their song or missed a step for their dance number, the entire crowd would cheer them on. Everyone got a "standing O." Silly cheers and songs, and even the parents and grandparents were getting into the dances. Seriously, it's pretty much the most inspiring place on earth.

I was a "family pal," which meant I was paired up with a camper and his family (in this case, mom and younger sister) all weekend, playing with the kids while their mom could have some time off and bond with the other parents. This was heart weekend, so all the kids had some sort of heart condition (but you wouldn't know it playing with them!). Even shooting myself at the archery range couldn't bring me down. We made and decorated cakes in honor of the 10th anniversary of camp, then ate them for breakfast on Sunday. Even a breakfast of frosting couldn't disrupt the spirit of camp! We had quite a few gator cakes, which more than made up for going to the big dance instead of watching the Gators dominate the SEC championship. There's not much cuter than kids doing the Gator chomp! And who doesn't love decorating cakes? I watched one kid make this gorgeous double layer cake, and the look of pride on his face when everyone told him how delicious it was was absolutely priceless.

After meals, the camp directors read the thank you notes left by campers, families, and volunteers - a misty-eyed experience even for heartless me. It makes you realize just how much we take for granted, how little effort it takes to make someone's day, and how great it feels to be appreciated. To sum up how amazing Boggy Creek is, while my camper and I were walking down to the pool we talked about camp and life. Paraphrasing, he said that he doesn't really mind having a heart condition because it means he gets to come to camp, but he hates that people pity him because he's "a normal kid" just like everyone else. Honestly! Like watching Hotel Rwanda, if you go to camp and aren't moved, you have no heart.

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