In 2012, the year my mother died from ovarian cancer, I began searching for opportunities to honor her legacy. She was a preschool teacher in Los Angeles, California and found multiple ways to impact the lives of her students.
I learned about Experience Camps (ExCamps) from a former college friend, Karis Ingram, who was a volunteer in 2017 for California Experience (CalEx) Girls camp. As Karis shared her camp experience I realized that volunteering would not only allow me to give back to those struggling with similar loss experiences, but also aid me on my journey in remembering my mother.
As a first time volunteer I was a bit nervous. The ExCamps and clinical staff provided valuable webinars on camper interaction, safety, cultural diversity, grief and more. These tools helped me feel prepared. From the time I landed in California to the moment camp was over I never felt more support and welcomed by staff and the other volunteers.
There were many moments during CalEx that resonated; my fondest memory was being a judge for the fashion show during college league events. Four counselors and myself dressed up in ridiculous costumes and took on various fashion personalities to judge the girls fashion show. Under time constraints campers created outfits from ordinary supplies: colored tissue paper, foil, beads, feathers, rope, ribbon etc. and dressed the Leaders in Training (L.I.T.s) girls. Campers really showed off their creativity and fashion expertise. It was at this event where I saw the joy, teamwork, and lasting connections that Experience Camps forms for campers and staff.
Every activity at camp developed a communal sense of support. It was common to spend the majority of the day in laughter and/or song with the girls in my bunk. In those moments where tears ran freely, the level of understanding and care campers showed to one another, no matter the age difference, was awe-inspiring. From my experience, ExCamps, is truly designed to foster healing and allow the kids to be kids. Honestly, “It’s the best week of the year”.
I did not want the week to end, so to keep the momentum I joined the ExCamps Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Task Force. This task force aims increase the level of diversity and inclusion, think racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, geographic, sexual orientation, gender identity, or literally any other type of diversity you can imagine. As a volunteer on D&I task force I am happy to provide my incite and socioeconomic background to our discussions. Being apart of the task force is allowing me to impact the lives of others in the manner in which my mother did. I am grateful for the opportunity to support children in their grief process as well as create lasting memories. I look forward to CalEx Girls Camp this summer.