My first camp was when I was eight years old and I am now twenty-two. I have been a part of something so special for the past fourteen years and although it is sometimes hard for me to open up and share my story, I want to encourage others with similar situations. Camp Laurel is for kids and their families who are affected with HIV. Having someone in my family born with this disease is what introduced
me to this camp world. At eight years old, I didn’t understand the meaning behind this camp. All I knew was that it was the coolest place to be! As I grew older, I began to realize why
we come to camp and how it changes the lives of people, for the better. Camp Laurel has become a safe place for children and teens to meet others who they can relate to and most importantly, gives them the opportunity (when they’re ready) to express themselves without any judgments. It’s a place to escape the stress, insecurities, the bullying, and all the problems from the outside world. It’s a place where we can all laugh, cry, love, reunite, and create memories. A place where we don’t discriminate against people with HIV, religion, sexual orientation, or gender but rather, view everyone as equal human beings. For many, it’s the only place they can actually be themselves and be surrounded by incredible people who open their arms, mind, and heart.
For me, camp has made such a huge impact and I am forever grateful for the life-long friends I have made throughout this whole experience. Since I turned eighteen, I have been returning to camp as a volunteer counselor and I see myself doing this for as long as I can. I hope to be a role model for these kids and educate and bring awareness so that we continue to expand what we call our Camp Family. Most of us are still discovering ourselves and my heart beats with happiness knowing that such an inspiring place like this exists for children, teens, parents, volunteers, and anyone who wants to be a part of something so extraordinary.
Someone recently asked me what I am passionate about. After letting that question sink in, I realized that we don’t always find passion in a hobby or a job but rather, it can also coexist in people. The thing I am most passionate about? I am passionate about this organization. I am passionate about the people who get involved. Most importantly, I am passionate about these kids and their families who although are living with a horrible disease, can still see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I want to end this message with the hope of spreading the word and giving an understanding to others of ho
w much we care about this organization and how important it is to the life of a child. We have a saying at camp that we hold dear to our hearts and that is, “It’s for the kids”. They’re the reason why I choose to advocate and give back and why many others also choose to do so. I would like to personally thank all the donors and future donors, camp counselors, doctors, nurses, facilitators, staff, and anyone else who chooses to be a part of this loving family.
With much love,