Day 40: Thanks Mom

It was my mom who first nudged me to apply for a summer camp counselor position she read about in the Universe Bulletin for Camp Happiness – a day camp for children with developmental disabilities. The first day of camp I was nervous, but as soon as I met the campers, I knew that everything was going to be OK. It was watching the campers grow, and learning their many abilities and their imaginations that changed my life that summer. I loved working with one particular camper who was unable to communicate but when you looked into her eyes, you could see that she only had love for the world and no fear. I wished I could be like that and still do.

After my summers at Camp Happiness, I started to volunteer with the monthly dances at OLA/St. Joe’s in Tremont. I would look forward to coming home from college and helping at the dances. It amazing to watch some of the dancers who have limited verbal skills but out on the dance floor they use the universal language of dancing to having the time of their lives.

Every December, Catholic Charities Disability Services has a Journey to Bethlehem Mass in which families and friends come together to celebrate Christmas. The most precious memory for me of this beautiful Mass is a mother and daughter sitting together. The daughter, who has developmental disabilities, was unable to sit still during the Mass. She was fidgeting and making noises as Mass was progressing however when it came to the Our Father, she stood up next to her mom and was as still as could be until the prayer was over, and then went back to her fidgeting. I watched as she had that moment with Jesus and her mom. It is those moments which Disability Services creates where people can be themselves – that is what Catholic Charities is all about.

I now help with the monthly retreats held for adults with developmental disabilities which are held at River’s Edge. It is nice to work with these retreat participants and assist them with their faith life while they in turn assist in mine. They have such an amazing outlook on life and having the retreat weekends gives them the opportunity to have time with their friends, help others, and spend time with the Lord.

My involvement with Catholic Charities Disability Services over the past fifteen years has made me see what amazing opportunities this office presents to people with disabilities and their families. I am glad that I am able to share in this ministry and learn from the amazing people that have come to be an important part of my life, starting with Camp Happiness, my first job. All I can say is “Thanks Mom!”

 -Submitted by Theresa P., Volunteer

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