Monday - day before camp
I am excited, eager, & curious, to get to Camp and meet my 2 boys, Darnell and Sam.
Over the weekend I went shopping for some decorations for our room, I am making signs with each of the kids names on them so they are able to find me when they get off the bus.
The dog was no help. :-)
Tuesday - Drive to Camp
Today I am going to camp! I got up around 7:30am and finished packing, I am anxious and excited to drive out there, setup and then meet my kids tomorrow. I am looking forward to bonding with Collin, Mark the director, Izzy, Josh and Mike the men I am rooming with.
10:30pm, we are going to sleep and I am exhausted but still anxious to meet the kids tomorrow. My dad is escorting them to camp on his motorcycle, (single women and kids love motorcycles). My dad is looking forward to the group bike ride, the camp director said 10 other bikes will be there, I was surprised.
The camp ground is beautiful, it's amazing it is only an hour drive from my house yet how far away you still feel. Perfect.
We went over our last bit of training today before the kids come tomorrow. They talked about
"2 deep rule" which is just reminder you can't be alone with a kid. Ever. They reminded us to take breaks and use our support staff often. Warned us there may be some fights, just get between the kids and separate them, they aren't UFC wrestlers so it shouldn't be too much of a distraction but to report it when you see anyone acting like a bully.
Wendy the social worker came in our room as we were setting up and she pulled the file of each of our kids, most kids are returning to camp so this isn't their first time. One has a brother who will be at camp this week and they actually live in separate foster care houses; imagine that, imagine seeing your sibling for the first time all year at a camp.
"Likes playing Legos, loves sports and project activities. Poor swimmer, slight anxiety, needs boundaries, lies to protect himself when he feels threatened."
Ok, so a lot like many of us adults I thought. The list went on...
"On daily meds, frequent bed wetter and mildly aggressive. Needs help with reading, not flexible, needs to be on a schedule. Mild asburgers, social skills are lacking, tantrums, nightmares, steals and witnessed sexual abuse."
God bless you two boys, I also love playing legos, sports, and activities. I'm not going to be able to fix any of the past, I won't pretend to be a psychologist but I promise to treat you like any other 10 year old boy that just wants to be included, loved and feel a glimmer of hope that the next 10 years of your life don't have to be a direct repeat of the 1st 10.
I will let you make choices, I will not make them for you while you are at camp. If you need to act out, that's fine we will get through it together and we will come out the other side. I will not assume or carry any prejudices during our activities, you are unique, special and smart 10 year old boys. For the next 5 days I hope you are able to feel like you are special and grow in your faith, trust more in others, instill confidence in yourself and I hope you continue to carry on the positive attitude and relish in the fact that you were put on this earth for a reason and you matter Greatly. God bless you two boys, your future is very bright and I am looking forward to spending the week with you at Camp.
Wednesday - the Kids arrive
The kids arrive today, everyone including myself are very excited. A lot of preparation, planning, dedication and sacrifice went into this and it starts today. Looking forward to meeting Darnell and Sam and getting this show on the road. My dad is escorting the kids out to camp leading the busses with 20 other motorcycles, kids love motorcycles but I also think this is great for my dad too!
I had anxiety going into the trip about being out of cell phone coverage or even if there were coverage I didn't want to be that guy missing out on so much happening around me because my nose was buried on my iPhone... But all of the sudden yesterday and today a sense of peace came over me like never before allowing me leave my cell phone back in the rooms and I am OK with that.
Two parts to it, this trip isn't about me, it's about the campers. And b. there's nothing that is going on at home/ work larger that needs my attention. Life/ work goes on and that's a humbling reality.
Texts don't need to be replied to right away, I don't need to send a picture of the view to my friends, I'm enjoying keeping some of it to myself surprisingly for the first time in a long while.
9am kids come soon, I hope my dad got to them safely and all the kids that committed to camp will arrive soon. Some families use Camp as a discipline leading up until camp and a few times kids have backed out last minute. I am very anxious to meet Darnell and Sam, I hope any nervousness they may have is quickly replaced with excitement, curiosity and hope for a nice fun week away from what they call home.
I was hoping to form a bond with my kids but I was warned they may not open up all week or they may connect with support staff or another counselor. With my hand on a stack of bibles I am ok with that, camp isn't about me, it's about the camper. I believe even if we don't connect this week, 15 years from now they can remember something we did and their lives may be different in a positive way because of something I said, how I reacted or didn't react, the choices I let them make, or the ray of Hope and confidence I had in them at camp regardless of any label anyone has put on them in the past. We are seed planters, my goal shifted from forming a bond to planting a seed.
"The feeling I got when I was holding my sign and I heard the motorcycles pull up (with my dad leading the way & 20 other bikes) waiting for the kids was like nothing I have ever experienced. Ever.
It was indescribable, better than excitement for a trip or a vacation, buying a new car or getting a new job, it was excitement for someone else which interestingly was way more rewarding than doing something for myself."
Heading to bed now, I'll write a little tomorrow about my 2 kids, but the pleasure is mine that I can share the week with them at Camp.
Thursday- day 2 with kids
It's 7:20am and I didn't sleep a wink. The kids were monkeys and horse playing all night. God give me the strength to have the patience working with these kids, help us communicate better today and participate. Amen
Today is our first full day with kids, our first breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My kids take meds twice a day so it's a responsibility for me to bring them to the nurse for their pills during breakfast, lunch and dinner.
(yesterday) My dad escorted the kids out with a bunch of other bikers and lead the drive from Joliet. I think he really really enjoyed it and it was good for him.
A text from my Dad - "Glad to do it. Had a great time. I'm really proud of you. Really exciting to see you devoting your time for such a great cause."
Looking forward to more swimming time, archery and laser tag today.
Some MMA fighters are coming out today to show the kids some moves.
The kids were much better today staying in groups and letting me know when they needed to go somewhere. They are really starting to open up to me, night and day difference from yesterday.
Sam walked a tight rope and held my hand and walked all the way across and didn't fall but he said he trusted me. We rode bikes together on a 2 person bicycle and he said that was his favorite thing of the trip. Then we built a bow and arrow and I taught him how to shoot it. He loves it and took it to bed with him. He also loves to dress up, he found a cowboy hat, outfit and boots and wore them all trip.
MMA fighters came, the kids liked seeing the guys spar and we learned how to throw a few punches ourselves. A magician came and did some card tricks and put on a show and I think the kids will really remember him; they were very interactive.
Funny we give the kids stickers if we catch them being good. And when Sam says stickers it sounds like he is saying sneakers. Heading to bed and the kids are already sleeping and I can tell it will be a much better night than last night. Praise The Lord.
I just got into bed and all 6 kids are sound asleep.
Sam woke up and told me he was afraid of the dark. I gave him a small flashlight and showed him how to turn it on and off. I hope he sleeps through the night well.
Friday - Birthday Party
My mom is coming for the birthday party, she is looking forward to it. Hope she finds the place ok & isn't 2 days late.
What a day.
Today was the birthday party for all the kids and it was such a huge bash, they all got so many toys and Royal Familes spared no expense for these kids. Everyone got gift bags, a garbage bag full of nice toys like Rip sticks, RC cars and basketballs. The kids appeared to have an amazing time and I was glad my mom was able to attend today like my Dad did on the kids first day on his Motorcycle.
Sam and I are really getting close. He gives me a side hug back and he asked me to swim with him today. When I left to go to the bathroom he asked "how long would I be gone?" Sam loves dressing up, we put on a puppet show and it was so much fun to see him laugh and smile so Big behind the curtain.
The kids have so many toys and the room is getting messy. Darnell wanted to leave the room in the middle of the night and 2 counselors had to restrain him for 10-15 minutes or so. We talked to him briefly and he said he was too hungry to sleep and wanted a snack. So one of the other counselors got him pretzels and he went right to bed.
Text from my Mom "What a great camp!! So proud of u. Your Dad too. Your Dad told me the motorcycles and police cars did an escort. I bet the kids loved it. "
Saturday - last full day with Kids
Some of the kids got wind today was the last day and I can tell they are not looking forward to going home, this is like a paradise all inclusive vacation for an adult;
but pry even better for these kids.
It amazes me how much these kids can eat.
Sam is 10 and weighs pry half what I do, he's like 4 foot tall and each meal he over flows his plate, he can eat a pancake whole (without cutting them) but he finishes all of it every time & often went up for seconds most times. These kids can eat and most have 5+ siblings so they over eat when they see a buffet not knowing when their next meal like this will come.
There were not a lot of activities today so Darnell and I made each other dog tags, we also made something out of sand in a bottle in layers, that was fun. It's interesting when you give Darnell too any options he got ornery. But once you got him started on an activity or project like finding frogs, he could do it for a long time. Sam liked to dress up and ride the bicycle. I hope he is able to bring the cowboy boots and jacket home he wore most of the trip.
The reptile show was a lot of fun, Dave & the Traveling World of Reptiles brought a huge snake, an alligator and a big lizard for everyone to touch, the kids loved it and he taught everyone about animals in the wild and let everyone pet them and ask questions; it was a lot of fun and all of the kids liked it.
I made a nice photo album for both kids, photos turned out Great. I wish I was able to make one for myself but we can't since the kids are under 18 and responsibilities of the state. Heading to bed.
Tomorrow is a half day at camp but will be some work loading up the bus and cleaning the rooms. Then we have a welcome home banquet and slide show for the foster parents/ care givers tomorrow around 1:30 -3:30.
Sunday - kids leave/ go home
Today is our last day @ camp, we go home today. We have breakfast like normal then a quick meeting, then load up our stuff and the campers. Our room was a mess, during our 30-30 time I tried to get the kids to pack what they were keeping and toss out what was trash.
Today it seemed like we ate, cleaned the rooms, had too much free time and then ate again. The 3 counselors put all the campers clothes and toys in 2 garbage bags, tied the shut and labled them 1 of 2 and 2 of 2 so they can be loaded on the bus and picked back up at 1st assembly. Our room was empty by 10:30 which was Great but I could tell kids were going to be difficult without toys/ going to want to get a toy vs. just ride bikes and play basketball.
Kids were dismissed from Club time and instructed to clean the room, put stuff in bags, throw away what they aren't taking with and we already did that but now we had 2-3 hours of free time till Lunch and then we left. So we sat in the shade for some time, rode bikes and just hung out but it seemed like all we did today was ate and had 2-3 hours of free time without any toys.
After Lunch we gave the kids the memory books we made, I think they both really liked the photo's in them, I enjoyed making them too and again wish I could have made one for myself with photos without the kids faces or some that were approved for me to take. I got the kids on the bus and hopped into my car and was on my way to 1st assembly for the Slideshow, Graduation and Welcome Home banquet for the campers.
My Low Fuel light was on but there weren't gas stations off 47 where we were so I was able to make it on E all the way back home to the gas station on Caton Farm and 59 by my house, so luckly I didn't run out of gas and I was able to fill up there.
Then I ran to the Vet at 1pm (they close at 1) and I got my Dog saving me the $16 boarding him 1 more day, brought him home and then got to Southwest. I met Sam's care givers, they are real nice people, same for Darnell, I met his Grandmother.
Saying goodbye to the Kids was difficult, seeing them up there 1 last time singing and dancing in front on stage was more emotional than I thought. I wanted to ask Sam's care givers to stay in touch, but I didn't know what was appropriate or not, so I didn't. I can go through Mark or Wendy if I want... but will give it some time.
Mark had an hour meeting to share SOTO's (Stories of the One) which are stories when the kids impact you. He got us on stage and I got a nice PIN for 1st year Volunteers.
SOTO: Story of the One
Sam waking me up with my flashlight to use the bathroom vs. going on his own like the 1st night. I let him borrow a small flashlight the 2nd night because he said he was afraid of the dark. He also used it to wake me up when he had to go to the bathroom at night.
Feel Good Moments
Update: MONDAY AUGUST 4TH, 2 WEEKS LATER: VIDEO
Kings and Queens; interesting because that was the theme of the week, we didn't make many choices for the kids so in a way they lived like Kings & Queens.
I'm reminded of the kids OFTEN. I think of them when I see stickers, when I eat lunch I remember the boys filling their plates. I think of Sam when I use a flashlight, I gave him a flashlight the 2nd night and he LOVED it but also used it to go to the bathroom @ night every night after. Darnell and I talked about xbox 360 one night late so I think of him when I drive by a Gamestop. When I catch myself getting caught up in the day to day, I stop and think about the kids; it is a reminder we all can get by just fine with a lot less.
The video turned out Great, I am PROUD to share it with family and friends. Camp was a lot of work but it was worth it, I hope we gave the Kids a week where they were Kings and Queens. I hope we reminded them how Important they are and gave them the Courage to feel Confident in the life they live; I pray we lit a little fire of HOPE, and planted a seed that God can water and water and water.
"It's just an incredible song about this idea of when we love the least of these, God wraps these little orphans in his majesty and they can become kings and queens. It gives you that idea that these are God's favorites, these little kids that have been forgotten. There's going to be a special place in heaven one day because of what they've been through here. It's just a triumphant, majestic song that just connects so deeply with Hands & Feet and the message of Audio Adrenaline right now."
I am a young, go getter and I am very curious, a goal of mine is to learn something new every day.