Wow! Time sure does fly when you are having fun. And a whole lot of fun is what we had during our two separate weeks of the Bounce Out the Stigma Basketball Camp in NJ. Our first week was held in Chatham at the Chatham ECLC School. The second week was held at the beautiful St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, NJ. This was our seventh year of holding camp in NJ.
Their was so many highlights to these weeks and so many stories of inspiration, as well as people to thank. I think a shout out first to our partners at the Family Resource Network (which includes the Epilepsy Foundation of NJ and Autism Family Services of NJ among their services), as they did a solid job with everything and should be commended. All staff now has CPR training and that was a great thing moving forward for this program. Speaking of our staff, I must say how proud I am to be associated with each and every one of them. They really demonstrate the great qualities one looks for in a human and how they work with each and every one of our children is just terrific. Our camp nurse, Alice, exemplified to us all why she is so great this summer- I could always count on her.
The Anita Kaufmann Foundation generously helped with scholarships, and Whole Foods was phenomenal once again. Whole Foods donates each year well and beyond limits with water and snacks for our campers. Enough cannot be said for my friendship with them and how they help the special needs population, asking nothing in return. We had several corporations donate volunteers; which is always a great asset to a cause like this. In addition to that we had some awesome speakers and parent programs this year headlined by great motivational speakers, former and current basketball players, a Hall of Fame Coach, health and nutrition experts and our new partner, Brain Balance.
All in all we had some really great times with our campers. In Chatham, I was so proud how these youngsters stuck it out through the heat and battled each day. We had 40 campers and these kids really came into their own and improved. We had some real characters, some who told funny jokes and stories and some who even grew in their own personal struggles. A personal story was a girl named Miranda. The first day I did not know if she particularly liked the program. As the week progressed she had a couple of health issues with her epilepsy but that did not stop her and I was so proud of her because I knew the program hit home and we would now have a camper for life. She did great on the court and developed friends with all the campers on top of her skills! The initial quiet and shy girl now asked me if she could sing to the entire camp and parents during the last day and Closing Ceremonies. She did and it was awesome! At the end when the ceremonies were over she came up to me with something she had made based on how much she loved camp. I have gotten many gifts from children over the years but this was clearly one of the most creative and hand drawn to perfection (even including my bald head)…what a kid! And what a week!
During the Wyckoff Camp, we had some fun times and fun kids as well. Of the 40 in attendance, many loved to tell jokes, so I would allow them each day either before or during lunch for stories to express their creativity. They learned and really played some good basketball as well. Our closing ceremonies in Wyckoff is always filled with much fun. Jonathan was and will always be one of my favorite campers throughout the years as he will always have jokes prepared or just create something on the spur of the moment just to rouse up a laugh or reaction from me, the kids and staff. A special moment hit me which was really special when a campers mother came up to me after our parent program with Brain Balance in the cafeteria. She said to me, “You should be very proud of yourself…you’re doing God’s work.” I took a minute to take that in and thought about it later in the day. This is my ultimate goal to serve Him and have these kids live through me. My ultimate goal is now to take this thing nationwide and ultimately fulfill His Calling for me to reach as many kids as possible. No limits!