MASC Camp 2013

Day 1

MASC-2013

Today’s theme was “Meet the Crew.”  After getting adjusted into their councils and getting to know everyone, the athletes did not take very long to send the chaperones away.  They learned much about setting goals today and even had to set some their selves.  Matt Z. is going to be president and with all the friends he has made so far, I am sure he can get enough votes.

Matt. Z and Matt C. are returning campers this year and are doing a great job of being leaders and helping out.  Isabelle decided after the pep rally today that camp was pretty cool.  Mystie, Morgan and Crystal are very social butterflies and were making many new friends during rec time.

I think Dustin and Sabrina are enjoying their level 1 experience as well.

After dinner, the campers got to compete in their very own Olympics.  They decked out in their teams’ colors with faces painted and competed in games.

Brittany, Andrea and I are returning chaperones this year.  Morgan S. has been here before but she and SOMO staff, Aimee, get to experience camp for the first time this year as chaperones.  All of us chaperones are loving the athletes so much!

It was a very long but great first day! Looking forward to the rest of the week.

Day 2 here at MASC Camp!

I think your campers were a little tired today.

This morning we listened to a great presentation by SOMO YAC president and JC, Whitney.  MASC was announced as a new partner of Special Olympics Missouri as well.

Then they spent the afternoon project planning and working on a song for songfest.  Each year the campers get more creative and this year was no exception.  I am pretty sure I caught almost each of them dancing on stage.  Yes even quiet Isabelle and Dustin were dancing with their councils.

The athletes continue to make friends and almost all of them have decided they don’t need the chaperones around.

Its been another fabulous day.

Day 3 here at MASC Camp!

If we thought we were tired yesterday, that was nothing compared to today.  It was a long day, but I think the athletes had a blast.

This morning, Marty talked to the campers about gusto.  He really inspired everyone to put their heart in to what they do and have spirit.

The campers went through workshops and then spent much of the afternoon at the park doing team building exercises.  I am very proud of all them.  In one of the exercises, the camper would fall back to their council and the rest of their council would lift them up.  Each of them did it.  I even did it and it was scary.  It was very hot out today and they kept going all afternoon.

We came back for the duck race.  All the money raised from the duck race goes toward Special Olympics.  Matt C. got to pick out the winning duck.  Then each of the councils went around and did a fans in the stands cheer for Special Olympics which were really cute.

They finished of their evening with the street dance.  Most all of the athletes danced and some watched Wreck It Ralph.  Matt Z. and Isabelle owned the dance floor.  Morgan, Mystie, Matt C. and Crystal hung out with their councils all evening so we barely saw them but could always tell they were having a blast.

We have a great group and the athletes are having the time of their lives!

Day 4 here at MASC Camp!

It’s the end of the last full day in Fulton.  You should probably expect some crying campers tomorrow as it will me emotional when they say their goodbyes.

We started day 4 off great with a Flag Day presentation by Marty.  He gave us some enlightening history on our nation and made each camper feel proud to be an American.  They showed the video that level 2 made this week.  Their challenge was to create a flag on the wall out of cut out hands and they succeeded.

In the afternoon, the campers listened to Karen talk about “warm fuzzies.”  They were then given a yarn necklace with a ball of yarn pieces at the end of it.  They would go around and say one nice thing to people and tie one of their pieces of yarn on to the other person’s necklace.  This struck some hearts and there were happy tears as it hit that today was their last day with their new friends.

They spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for the banquet tonight, decorating and  prepping a little speech/skit to give the rest of the camp.

They all got dressed up and we took some pictures together.  Then they headed off with their councils to eat at the banquet.  After many pictures with their friends, they gathered in the dome for the councils presentations.

They were all given glow sticks in red, white and blue.  Then, they headed out to the pond to end the night together, reflecting on their amazing MASC experience.

I know they have all learned many life lessons this week and have become better leaders.  I’ll be sad to say goodbye tomorrow to them.  I won’t be saying goodbye to Morgan C. and Matt C. for too long as we all will be off to Sports Camp next week.  I know your campers will be excited to see you tomorrow.  They won’t forget the memories made here in Fulton.

I hope you and your campers made it home safely.  I made it back home and am already back to Sports Camp to get ready for the athletes.  We had a great last day.  It was definitely hard to say goodbye.  After finishing letters, a last general session and many goodbyes and hugs, we all headed out and left Fulton.  I hope your athletes had a great experience this week and brought back tons of ideas.  I loved spending the week with the athletes and look forward to seeing them again soon!

Rachel Antal is a college student, longtime volunteer and member of SOMO’s Youth Activation Council. She attended the Missouri Association of Student Councils summer camp a few weeks ago, along with several SOMO athletes. 

Ray Lauer and Linda Wiederholt Inducted into SOMO Hall of Fame

The SOMO Hall of Fame was created in 1997 by the Board of Directors as a way to recognize longevity and achievement of athletes and volunteers within the organization. A voting committee, appointed by the SOMO Chairperson of the Board, is responsible for reviewing all nominations and voting on no more than two inductees in each category.  To be inducted, finalists must be named on 75% of the ballots. A permanent display, housed in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, features photos of each year’s Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame inductees.

The 2012 inductees were announced Jan. 19 at our awards banquet in Branson, and they were enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Jan. 27 in Springfield. You can read the prerequisites and download a nomination form on our website.

Ray LauerRay Lauer, Hillsboro (volunteer)

As a Deputy Chief with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Ray became involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri in the early 1990s. He eventually became the Chair of the LETR, a position which he held for seven years. During that time, the LETR doubled the funds it raised in Missouri and reached the $1,000,000 mark for the first time. Also during his tenure, Missouri was chosen as host for the International LETR Conference. Hosted in St. Louis, the conference launched Missouri’s LETR permanently onto the international stage, setting a high bar for future international conferences.

After his retirement in October of 2003, he served on the Board of Directors until 2011. During that time, he served on the executive committee of the Board as secretary. He remains active in the LETR and on the St. Louis Over the Edge committee, as well as volunteering at the Polar Plunge.

ray andy bev lauerIt is through Ray’s quiet demeanor and selfless attitude that he has had the greatest impact. An intangible impact is that through his example, all of his children followed in his footsteps in many ways. All three sons and one daughter became involved, either by volunteering at events or fundraising. His son Matt served as a staff member and his son Paul won the Wheels for Winners Raffle in 2011. Ray’s involvement will continue as a fan of SOMO as his grandson, Andy, born in 2008 with Down syndrome, looks forward to one day being a Special Olympics athlete.

Linda WiederholtLinda Wiederholt, Kansas City (volunteer)

Besides time with her family or with her job as a 6th grade math teacher, the vast majority of Linda’s time and energy is spent enhancing SOMO.

Linda became involved with SOMO in the 1980s because her brother, Daniel Schieber, joined a program in the Northwest Area. Linda once said “Special Olympics for me has been giving back to a program that has made my brother’s life. Friendships have grown throughout the state so much that I now refer to Special Olympics families as my extended family.”

She has been actively involved in both the Northwest Area and in the Kansas City Metro Area for decades. She participates in every facet of Special Olympics, including coaching, fundraising, mentoring, leadership, planning committees and recruiting athletes, volunteers, Unified Partners and youth. Linda is a member of the KC Metro Games Management Team. Even if she is actively coaching a sport, she takes part as the GMT and is always the first person there to help set up an the last to leave. She coaches and attends SOMO’s Sports Camp each year in Mexico, Mo. Linda attends and assists with all major Missouri events each year, including district, regional and state competitions and Leadership Conference. She attends and assists with KC Metro Area fundraising including the Dare to Dream Golf Scramble, Broadway Bridge Run, Polar Plunge and fundraising for her team. She is an active adviser on the Youth Activation Committee and Project UNIFY. Linda prepared and trained athletes for the Special Olympics National Conference held in Kansas City in 2000 and was a Global Messenger trainer.

Brittany pose medal cropLinda has expanded the Park Hill district from seven athletes to more than 100, and she continues to seek out and take on more athletes every sports season. She has greatly expanded the sports program, coordinating basketball, softball, track and field, tennis, bocce, bowling, golf and soccer.

She has been recognized for her excellence within SOMO through winning the Outstanding Coach award in 2007. She was selected  twice to coach Team Missouri for National Games. Her birth family, the Schiebers, won Outstanding Family in 2001, and in 2012 her “married life” family, the Wiederholts, were nominated for Outstanding Family in the KC Metro Area.

Do you know someone deserving of this award? Download a nomination form for the athlete category or non-athlete category

My SOMO Story: Tim Schuster

My SOMO story begins in 1997 in Atchison, Kansas.  I was an uninspired fifth year senior with an extra semester still to go.  In search of a way to finish my college career sometime  before I hit my thirties, I began to hit the trail in search of some type of internship.  Now, if there is one sport that I love, it is the game of baseball.  I could sit and talk for hours about baseball stats, players, managers, strategies and so on.  I had basically spent the entire year trying to get hired for an internship with a minor league baseball team.  Unfortunately, due to finals week, I was unable to attend the large job fair minor league teams use to hire most of their interns.

Then one day I got a call from my mother, and she had been doing some looking on her own, presumably since she was tired of paying for all these years at a private college. Gary Brimer (SOMO’s Chief Sports Officer) had an opening in Jefferson City at the headquarters office. The pay wasn’t much but it would count for credit, I could live at home and we could carpool together since Gary & I lived in the same town.  I had known Gary pretty much my whole life, and since the baseball thing didn’t appear to be panning out, I decided to take him up on his offer.  My experience with Special Olympics was next to nothing.  I had helped Gary out at a local basketball tournament a couple of times in Boonville (my hometown), but nothing more than that.  I had the typical “too cool for school” attitude initially, and took more than my fair share of ribbing from my roommates about spending my summer working with a bunch “special” people.  That’s about the attitude I took with me to begin.

On my first day on the job, Gary told me to pack up my stuff as we would be leaving for the Missouri State Summer Games at Ft. Leonard Wood the following day.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing like being thrown to the wolves on your first week beginning with the biggest event in the state.  So as the Games began, and I got more acclimated with Special Olympics, I began to see what it was all about.  I saw all of the passion, determination, and hard work that was put into the games by the athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers.  I saw that these athletes were not really any different than me or my roommates.  And I remember leaving the Fort with a whole new respect for the athletes and thinking, “Heck, if I had half as much drive as they did, I wouldn’t be facing my sixth year of college dead in the face.”

The summer continued pretty much uneventful just doing the basic intern stuff like filing and what not.  Then one day Gary proposed to me that Missouri was going to put on an athlete camp as a pre-cursor to a Special Olympics World Games the following year.  Missouri had never put on a camp, but other states were trying it and he wanted to see how it went with athletes spending a week away participating in various different sports. I would be the director.  Well, all I can say is, what an experience it was.  We trained in different sports such as basketball, aquatics, and tennis.  We had nightly activities. It was really a good insight once again that these athletes are just like you and I.  I can’t tell you how much fun I had with them. From playing sports with them, showing of my limited dance skills at the dance, and even doing a camp activity known as hiney writing (basically writing your name with your posterior) it truly was one of the best weeks I have ever had.  On the last day of camp, we said our goodbyes and as we were leaving I was presented with an official camp shirt with the autographs of about a hundred of my new friends. To this day, that shirt is framed and hanging up in my house for all to see.

Sadly, the internship came to an end after camp and it was back to school, but I always took with me all of the life lessons the athletes had taught me through their actions.  Life went on, and eventually I did get that baseball job.  I spent ten years traveling the southeast working in baseball.  But I never forgot about Special Olympics, it might have been volunteering at the softball tourney in Tennessee, or helping coordinate  the Jello Jump at my stadium in Virginia. Special Olympics was no longer something I joked about or avoided it was something I sought out and wanted to be a part of.

Now life has brought me full circle, and low and behold I am back working with Special Olympics Missouri full time. I even make it back to camp each year. It’s just like the old adage says: “You can take yourself out of Special Olympics, but you will never take Special Olympics out of you.”

Tim Schuster, left, is the Northeast Area Director for SOMO. You can reach him at schuster@somo.org.

My SOMO Story: Crystal Chalk

I stood in the gym and watched as the athletes brought in their luggage and said goodbye to their parents/guardians.  Some had great big smiles on their faces while others had a look of apprehension – for this would be the first time that they had spent a week away from home.  This sounds like a typical beginning to any summer camp, but this was not just ANY summer camp – this was the Special Olympics Team MO National Games selection camp.

This was my first time to go to athlete camp as well, and I was so excited to see what was in store.  I was paired up with a basketball team from St. Louis – 10 athletes and two coaches that I had never met before.  I was thrilled to have the chance to get to know these athletes, but I had no idea what a life changing experience I was about to encounter.

As the week began, I watched these athletes train – running drills and scrimmaging for 3-4 hours a morning, and then doing cross training for 3-4 hours each afternoon.  I was amazed at how they soaked everything in, and never once complained about being tired or asking to sit out.  I watched how some struggled with some of the new drills that they were asked to do, and just as they were about to get frustrated, a fellow athlete would come over and take the time to help them out.

As the week went on, I watched these same athletes do these drills over and over and by the end of the week, I had a complete different set of athletes standing before me.  Sure it was the same group, but they had grown so much!  They not only changed out on the basketball court, but they changed with the way they interacted with the other teams, they changed with their independence, they changed their attitudes and their confidence grew, but most of all – they changed me.

I will forever cherish the week that I spent with this team, whether it was talking, laughing, running, dancing, or shooting hoops with them, the memories that I have will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Their outlook on life and their cheerful spirits are something that I will strive to imitate each and every day.  Thank you for making this week possible for so many athletes, and I encourage you to come and spend a few hours with these amazing athletes at camp next summer.

Crystal Chalk is the Central Area Associate Director. She has worked for SOMO for seven years. You can reach her at chalk@somo.org.

Sports Camp: Wild, Wild West

My name is Rachel Antal and this is my 5th year at Special Olympics Missouri Sports Camp at Missouri Military Academy (MMA) in Mexico, Mo. I started as a junior counselor, was a head coach last year and was the photographer at camp this year.

The athletes don’t officially arrive until Sunday but the “camp lady” Susan Shaffer, Nurse Sherry and I start first thing Saturday morning on preparing camp. This year we were lucky enough to have Genice Fisher, Matt Cepeda, and Justin Bernhardt’s help to set up.

Sunday came around and the first athlete was at Mexico Military Academy at 11:30, which meant camp had officially begun. I passed out nametags as each excited face made their way in the door. Some were a little nervous about leaving their mom and dad for the first time since this year we had a lot of new campers. We also had many new chaperones join us this year including SOMO’s own staff member, Jonathon Hankinson.Through the course of the day, 162 people entered MMA to start the week.

Sunday night was spent getting to know your team, and they also completed the Train program, which determines what a good sport for them to play is.  After the opening session, the athletes get settled into what will be their home until Friday.

Monday was the first day of sports training all day for the athletes. I got to spend the morning with Renzi going around to all the sports events and taking pictures. Since I am so used to having a group, I kept looking for my team every so often to see if they were following me. I heard that World Games Aquatics gold medalist Chris Ringot raced DJ Hewlett in the pool and won. Right after lunch the athletes get rest time, which I believe must be taken advantage of. Then they continue to their afternoon events, which are a little more laid back.

For Monday night’s activity, the teams competed in a minute to win it competition. They were given different challenges and had certain requirements on completing them. Of course staff is never missed, so I had to build a house of cards against some other athletes and the lifeguard, Brittany. Somehow Matt C. was able to get a small one built and won. I also had to wrap someone in toilet paper and got to choose my victim, I mean partner ;). I choose Brittany Selken and we dominated. After a fun night of camp songs, silly competitions and cheering our team on, it was time to call it quits for Monday. We made sure to initiate all our new counselors with the shaving cream cheese puff toss. It definitely got a little messy.

Tuesday started day 2 of sports training. Renzi and I spent the morning working on stuff for relay night. In the afternoon, the athletes got to fish, so I was out at the pond taking pictures. One of the athletes caught a catfish. Some of the other people insisted that I kiss it, so I bent down after loads of begging. It moved right when I was going to so I jumped really big but finally kissed it on the head. (Blah, not again.) Fishing is probably one of the most fun events the athletes do because they get so excited when they catch something even if it is a turtle.

Because of the heat today, we did not do our evening activity and instead it was free time for the athletes. We did all go down to the field to take the group picture. I got to corral 160 people into the bleachers and get them all to smile. It wouldn’t be a normal year of camp if someone didn’t get me somehow. One year I had an egg cracked on me after the egg toss was over, last year my sheets were tied to the fence. This year one of the boys swiped my nametag out from under my nose so I had to do the chicken dance in front of everyone to get it back. We act crazy and goofy sometimes but I love every minute of Sports Camp.

Wednesday continued much of the schedule as Monday and Tuesday. Renzi and I spent the morning printing out the camp group pictures then we finally found the pool. It was freezing but felt nice after you got used to it. Chris Ringot had demolished everyone this week in a race in the pool and turned the challenge on me. Lets just say I have a lot of room for improvement. I stayed pretty close until we were turning around to come back and then I lost by at least a half a pool. I am proud of Chris though and glad that he represented Missouri well at World Games.

I spent my afternoon at the pond again watching the athletes catch fish. A great quote of the day was by athlete Mark when he caught a turtle in the pond and was like “I got Donatello! I got one of the Ninja Turtles!”

This evening was relay night. The athletes competed in various western challenges including picking sponges out of the “cow patty,” a.k.a. mud. They would run and grab one and then run back to their gun. They were such a hoot to watch and everyone had a good time. The staff and counselors finished off the night by competing in the egg toss. Junior counselors Morgan and Haley won the egg toss. I got lucky because I had to take pictures of it and didn’t get egg on me.

Thursday was the last full day at Sports Camp. The athletes continued on the same schedule as the rest of the week. I spent my morning sorting the crafts, then Renzi and I got the shirts ready to pass out on Friday. In the afternoon, I worked on getting my slide show set up for Friday and made a Walmart run for Shaffer.

Thursday night is everyone’s favorite night of camp – the dance. We had a great time. At MASC Camp last week, Matt, Justin, and I learned a dance that you can do to any fast paced song so we started doing it, and soon half of the room was doing it with us. The athletes were nothing but smiling, dressed up in their western outfits.

It has been a tradition it seems like in the past couple years for camp pranks. Needless to say, my room ended up having streamers and toilet paper all over it but Emily and I thought it was hilarious. We finished off the night by pulling a couple of our own.

Friday was a hard day for all. We all of course are ready to be back to our own beds, but we don’t want to leave camp either. Saying goodbye to 160 of your new closest friends isn’t easy. This being my 5th year and seeing many people I already knew, saying goodbye is only harder. All the teams competed in a kickball tournament then the certificates and shirts were passed out to every team.

After hugs, Nurse Sherry and I were in my car, headed for home. As we pulled out of MMA, the car horn was blazing to let everyone know that one of the best weeks of summer was over.

MASC Leadership Workshop: Go for the Gold!

Trish Lutz is the Area Services Director and leads our Youth Activation Council. She can be reached at lutz@somo.org. Through our partnership with the Missouri Association of Student Councils, SOMO leaders attend their Leadership Workshop each summer. Below, Trish blogs about the experience.

Sunday

The theme for Camp this year is “Leadership: Go for the Gold!” It is an Olympic theme in honor of our great country and the Summer Olympics coming up. Obviously, we are loving the theme!

Today’s theme was: “Play A Part of History.” I’d say that SOMO and MASC are playing a strong part in history. The MASC Leadership Camp has been around for many, many years and has been held here at William Woods for 60 years! It has only been in the past three years that individuals with intellectual disabilities have been invited to be a part of this opportunity. It is because of MASC and their focus of building inclusive school environments where ALL individuals are accepted and respected for their abilities and differences.

This is our 4th year coming to camp. With any new opportunity, you have to ease into it so that you can ensure a positive experience for all involved. After three years of coming for half the week, this year, these 7 athletes are making history as we are staying for the ENTIRE WEEK!

Today’s activities were pretty routine. Getting acquainted with their councils, eating dinner (which by the way is yummy and there is always blue bunny ice cream treats for dessert!), playing games, listening to a great motivational speaker and then time for tranquility. Each evening there is “tranquility” time where we all come together and reflect on the days happenings and sing a few songs. It is quiet time before we head off to bed.

Rest assured, everyone is having a GREAT time. Our partners are “bored” because the athletes have already made tons of friends and don’t “need” them anymore! However, they will be there for them all week if they do! Matt Cepeda, Justin Bernhardt and Sierra Simmons are return campers, so they are showing the rest of the gang the ropes!

Monday

After wishing Sierra a Happy Birthday, we were off to the opening session to learn about setting goals. Other activities included doing some public speaking activities and getting to know other council members during “one on one” time. They pair up and spend time getting to know each other. I understand Matt Ziesel got paired up with two young ladies and did his best to impress them!

They also discussed acceptance and inclusion, lead by our very own SOMO YAC Co-Advisor, Jacob Conklin (Jacob also wears a couple of other hats as a STUCO advisor at Pleasant Hope High School and SPED teacher and as an Adult Counselor here at Camp).

The theme for today was “In the True Spirit of the Games,” and they participated in the traditional MASC Olympics. This is a time for fun and games and do a lot of team building with their respective councils. You will have to ask them about some of the wild and crazy activities they had to do (like passing an orange down the line with their chin or holding a tennis ball between their knees and hopping to put it in a bucket!).

The evening ended, as usual with tranquility. Again, a time to reflect and relax before heading off to bed.

Needless to say, everyone had a GREAT day, but they are exhausted.

P.S. You should know that we have some of the BEST Partners here this week with our athletes. Thank you Alan, Renzi, Rachel, Brandon, Brittany and Andrea – I love you guys!

Tuesday

After a very busy day of project planning, project presenting, creating a unique song as a council and singing the song in front of over 500 delegates……it is time to go to bed!

A shout out to Rachel Antal and Justin Bernhardt, SOMO YAC Co-Presidents who presented today the Top 10 Reasons Why MASC and SOMO Share the Spirit!

I am so proud of everyone!

Wednesday

WOW! What a day! Our theme was “Let’s Celebrate Together.”

We started our morning with GUSTO with a presentation by Marty Powers. Marty has been coming to this camp for 30+ years and is a former football coach and STUCO advisor. He is great speaker and really knows how to connect with kids. He also plays the guitar each night during tranquility and leads us in songs.

Then, they headed to round table discussions where they learned about different projects/ideas to take back to their schools and Student Councils.

After round tables, we headed to the park up the street where they did a variety of teambuilding activities, that included being lifted up by their councils into the air! I was SO proud of each and every one of our athletes for what they accomplished today.  They were true leaders today who had the courage to try new things and step out of their comfort zones!

We celebrated our day with DANCE! I got pictures of most everyone at the dance except Morgan — she was such a dancing machine I couldn’t keep up with her!

Finally, at tranquility, one of our SOMO YAC partners, Rachel Pearson, who is a junior counselor (JC) here this week, shared her “gift.” Each JC does a video and presents it to the group to “gift” everyone with something. Rachel’s was about recognizing and celebrating the “little things in life.” She used what she has learned through her involvement with SOMO how it is the little things that matter the most . . . smiles, friendships, happiness and making memories that last a lifetime. It was a beautiful video and we were all crying!

There was one other VERY important activity from today. They held a Duck Race for SOMO and raised over $1,600.

Thursday

As I sit here this evening and reflect on this past week, I have so many thoughts and feelings spinning around in my head and heart. The best way I can describe my thoughts is with a quote by John Wayne. John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” This is so true for EVERY person who has experienced this week from the athletes, to the chaperones and to the families!

We had several athletes here who have NEVER been away from home for more than a night or weekend until now! Many came here on Sunday apprehensive and nervous, yet they had the COURAGE to stay and try something brand new. Our motto this week has been “never give up” even if you are faced with something that is outside your comfort zone. Brooke, Matt, Matt, Justin, Morgan, Marcy and Sierra, each showed their COURAGE at some point this week.

Brooke:

Brooke was very shy and quiet the first day. She barely said two words in her council, BUT tonight during the evening session, each council got on stage and had to “sum up” their week and what they learned as a council. Only a few got to speak from each council.  BROOKE stood in front of everyone (about 600 people) with a microphone and spoke from her heart about what she learned this week with her council. THAT IS COURAGE!

Matt Z:

This was a whole new experience for Matt Z as well, but Matt had no problem being himself and showing others how to be themselves as well. Matt, too, got on stage tonight and shared why he liked coming to camp. That is COURAGE!

Matt C:

Matt C has been here before, so this might have seemed like it was going to be easy for him, HOWEVER, this was his first year to stay all week. He had to try some new things, like trusting people he just met to lead him around a park, blindfolded. But what was even more important about that opportunity was that it not only taught trust, but communication. Each person had to communicate with each other so that they would feel comfortable and be able to get where they were going together as a team. That is COURAGE!

Morgan:

This was Morgan’s first real time being away from home as well. I watched Morgan on Wednesday at the park during one certain exercise. What you had to do was spin in a circle with your eyes closed and make yourself dizzy. Then you had to TRUST and listen to others try and LEAD you to the top of the hill, WITH YOUR EYES closed to the finish line. Now, those of you who do not know Morgan, you are probably thinking – okay – what’s the big deal. Most other people would not have a challenge with this because they would use their sense of hearing to get them to the top of the hill. However, Morgan has a hearing impairment so she recognized the challenge. She spoke up for herself and said, “I need help with this activity,” and her friend from her council helped guide her to the top. That not only was COURAGEOUS, but showed her skills as a leader because she was willing to ask for help!

Justin:

Justin is a returning camper as well. This is actually his 3rd time coming to camp. His first year, I could barely get him to smile, let alone talk! This year, he walked in with his head held high, high fiving people he had met the year before and stepped up as a leader in his council. Let’s just say, this year, I NEVER saw him without a smile and, well, he certainly wasn’t quiet! That’s called taking your COURAGE and putting into action!

Marcy:

I have to say, from the beginning, I could sense Marcy was pretty excited about being here! Marcy’s true COURAGE showed at the park during the trust activities. I watched as she really struggled with the activity where you had to trust your council to lift you up. She expressed her fears with everyone and they encouraged her and told her that they would never drop her and that they were there for her. She took a deep breath and then the next thing you know she is in the air! She completely stepped out of her comfort zone. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know that I could have done what she did (or the other athletes for that matter ). That’s Courage!

Sierra:

Sierra had been here two other times, so she kinda knew what to expect, but not for the whole week. I was VERY proud of Sierra because she, too, spoke this evening in front of everyone on stage! Sierra was about like Justin her first year at camp, very shy, very apprehensive. I truly have seen Sierra grow through this experience and she has become more confident and COURAGEOUS!

Brittany, Brandon, Andrea, Renzi, Alan and Rachel (aka – the chaperones): THANK YOU! You have been an instrumental part of making this week such a success. You each are amazing individuals and I am so proud to have you as part of SOMO YAC!

So, in closing – moms, dads, coaches, teachers and friends – you should be very proud. I look forward to seeing each of the athletes put what they learned this week into action at home, in their schools and at their jobs.

We went for the Gold and we SUCCESSFULLY achieved it! Way to go!