Friday, May 28, 2010


Speaking to a New Generation

One of my fondest memories from high school was going to Bradford Woods for Broad Ripple High School's Leadership Camp. A group of students spent several days in the woods learning how to be leaders which, in some cases, also meant learning how to follow. What I remember most is the beautiful setting that Bradford Woods provides, the fun "camp" activities, the dance in the dinning hall on the last night, and having my first cup of coffee ever (because they made us get up so very early to do calisthenics!).

(Of course, I started out drinking my coffee loaded with cream and sugar, but a few nights later, while having dessert after a family dinner, I shocked everyone by asking for coffee. As I was loading my coffee up with cream and sugar my Grandma (Mom's mother) looked at me and said "It's not coffee if it's not black." My immediate thought was "if my Grandma can drink black coffee than so can I!" From that day forward I take my coffee black unless it's a mocha or some other coffee drink.)

Over the years I've thought about Bradford Woods a lot, but I didn't have any reason to return there until about two years ago when the People's Burn Foundation began hosting an Adult Burn Survivor retreat. The past two years we've been in a different area of the camp from where the Leadership Camp had been and it just wasn't the Bradford Woods of my youth. However, Bradford Woods staff is fantastic as always and their Director of Therapeutic Recreation has taken the time to work with the Adult Burn Survivors while we are there. He and I have gotten to know each other a bit and this year he asked if I would be willing to speak to their summer staff about my experiences as a person with a disability. Of course I said Yes!

One of the amazing things about Bradford Woods is that they really specialize in camps for people with disabilities. Later this summer I will be going down there to speak to Camp Rielly, and I'm really looking forward to having a chance to connect with those kids, but that's not the point of this update. (Sorry it's taken so long for me to get around to my point, but if you've been reading this blog for a while then you should be used to it!) Last night I drove to Bradford Woods to speak with the summer staff before their season really kicks off.

I was invited to join them for dinner before my speech. As I arrived I could hear children from an early camp group playing in the woods nearby. I also saw people walking along the trails as I drove up the tall hill to the main area of the camp. I parked my car and took one long look around and realized that this was it! This was the Bradford Woods that I remembered! Then I walked around to the dinning hall, which was exactly as I remembered it. Same tables, same chairs, same smells, same big windows looking out on the camp. All I had to do was close my eyes and I was instantly transported back to that first cup of coffee, or that dance on the last night of Leadership.

After dinner I walked down to the amphitheatre where I was to deliver my speech to the summer staff (a group of approximately 80 young adults ranging from 18 to about 25 years of age). The raised fire pit in the center of the amphitheatre was covered and I decided it would be the best place for me to sit, rather than going up on the stage. (I like to be close to my audience.) Thanks to the rotation units that I now have on each leg I was able to sit Indian style, which is extremely comfortable, while I spoke. It was such a beautiful setting that when it started top drizzle we decided to take a risk and stay outside. We were partially protected by the branches of some huge old trees, but that drizzle quickly turned into a down pour and we were forced inside. That was fine by me because it forced the group to get even closer to me which I think creates a certain level of intimacy during a presentation.

As I looked around the room at this young generation of camp counselors I realized that I was really talking to the future generation of Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, all other kinds of Therapists, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Attorney's, Hospitality and Culinary Manager's...the list could go on forever because at that age anything is possible. What struck me the most was that this group of young adults had chosen to spend their summers helping people with disabilities. Some of the people in the group have disabilities of their own and they've chosen to be the example that a disability doesn't hold you back from your dreams. They've embraced the purpose that I was talking about in my last update (which only got one comment, by the way...ahem...can you tell I'm not pleased?). That purpose being to use their unique talents to help others. I'm honored to have been given the opportunity to touch their minds, and I can't wait to see them when I return next month for Camp Reilly!

Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing -- I enjoyed reading about your experiences at Bradford Woods. Isn't it great when we can experience something as adults that takes us right back to when we were kids? And you can even sit Indian style, like you did as a kid! Amazing! :-)

BTW, Mick would agree 100% with you and your Grandma about coffee. ;-)

Love you!
Well, at least your comment response has grown by 100% from your last post. It's so interesting to read what your brain is porcessing. It's sort of just out there thinking I love the ability to sort of "walk along side" as Kevin would say. See you around.
Dear Jeremy,
Please forgive your Virginia Beach family for the lack of comments concerning the posts. We look forward to each addition to your blog.We will do better.
Via snail mail I am sending you a couple of newspaper clippings about the latest addition to our beach front. We now have a wheelchair friendly park for kids of all ages. Known as JT's Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground for EveryBODY, it was built with private donations honoring Josh Thompson,35,a surfer now battling ALS.
You continue to teach others, in person and with the blog, reminding the world that everyone is a whole person and should be thought of in that way.

Love, Lilla
P.S. Grandmas know is black,no sugar.
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