How did you hear about Camp Twin Lakes?
"Paul is a disabled Veteran and was going through the SHARE Military Initiative therapy program at the Shepherd Center for veterans with PTSD and TBI's. We were eating lunch at the Shepherd Center Spine & Brain Hospital and one of the counselors asked us if we had heard of Camp Twin Lakes Family Warrior Weekends. This was in October 2013, so we took one of our 6 children with us to our first family camp in November. We were hooked!!!"
When and why did you start volunteering?
"Paul and I became certified peer mentors for veteran couples while he was still in SHARE. We went to the spring 2014 Family Warrior Weekend Camp, this time taking 4 of our 6 kids. After camp, the director Kate Lipton, asked if we would like to volunteer for Kids Serve 2 camp for military kids. Paul, never having gone to a summer camp as a child, misunderstood and thought it would be the same as going to the weekend camps. He had no idea that not only would he not be in the same building as me, he would also be in charge of five 9-year-old boys. He had the hardest cabin but Kate (and I) knew he could handle it. Since then, we have volunteered numerous times for the Family Warrior Weekends as peer support. We simply love the positivity that being at Camp brings! We also volunteer for Spin for Kids and Radiothon, CTL's fundraisers, and any other chance we get. This will be our 4th year and 6th camp volunteering with Kids Serve 2. The kids have gone to camp for four years now as well. They volunteer whenever they are available for Spin for Kids and in training classes for volunteers about why they love camp."
What's your favorite story from volunteering with campers?
Ashley - "One of my favorite memories was teaching Atalia, a beautiful camper who has cerebral palsy, namaste. I love that little girl and that made my week. I have also volunteered for Kate's Club's Camp Good Mourning the year my little nephews lost their father. Kate's Club helped them so much with all they were going through and I wanted to give back (and go to camp again). The illumination walk is life-altering, especially if you have never experienced loss like a child who has lost a loved one. Every experience I have at camp is through the eyes of a child and the best time of my life!"
Paul - "I had a kid in my cabin year before last who was a troubled one. I could tell immediately he wanted attention, negative or positive. We went with positive no matter what the situation, but being a disabled veteran with PTSD and a TBI, he really liked to push my patience. At the end of camp, the kids were given the opportunity to write a letter to their counselor. He wrote the sweetest note a 9-year-old boy could possibly write asking me to come back to camp the next year and be his counselor. That made every trying moment worth it. We volunteered at the spring Warrior Family Weekend as peer support. He was there with his family. He tried to act tough like he didn't know me but I could see that grin. Ashley and I walked him to his mom at their cabin and when she opened the door he kinda whispered to her. She turned and looked at me and said, "Oh, this is the Paul I can't get you to stop talking about at home?" And she smiled. He grinned shyly. My heart sank. I meant that much to him."
What is special about Camp Twin Lakes to you and your family?
"For our family, it means time together and time for the kids to just be kids away from home and stress. Although we are sometimes counselors when they are at Kids Serve 2, we are not their parents for a week. That gives us and them a break from each other. They allow us to give back for all we are blessed with and what they provide for our family. Everything about CTL is special. They put a lot of effort into every aspect of their camps. The staff is professional, yet nurturing. Every person from the CEO to the summer staff is selected with care. They always know how to put a smile on your face even when you are at the last camp of the summer and they are completely exhausted. They teach the children values but get down to their level to relate to them in a fun way. Everything is adaptable no matter what your disability and that makes every child feel important and valued. They give kids a chance to just be kids, despite their life challenges. Camp is secure and makes you feel protected. Most importantly, it allows each person who goes to leave a piece of themselves."
What would you want others to know about Camp Twin Lakes?
Ashley and Paul - "That they change lives! There are no disabilities at camp, no differences! Everyone is important! Everyone, including the counselors, make lifelong friends. Volunteering is so rewarding and experiencing camp takes you back to childhood."
Kayla - "Camp is so much fun but it also helps us overcome our fears and challenges us. We are able to do things there that we normally wouldn't be able to do and everyone is able to enjoy!!" Kadence - "It's the best place ever! Everyone there makes you feel cared about and loved."