Monday, June 23, 2008

Meeting Nikki

I only met Nikki briefly, and not even personally. Last week Nikki came to the Easter Seals Colorado Board of Directors’ meeting to tell us about how rich her life is. Every June, the Board meets at the Easter Seals camp in Empire, Colorado. As a member of the Board, it is never hard for me to imagine all the wonderful things that go on at that camp. Yet, I am always surprised at how limited my imagination really is once I am on site and see just how much of a difference a week can make in the life of a child or teen with disabilities.

Nikki is 21. She has muscular dystrophy. This summer is her sixteenth at the Easter Seals camp. Her message, delivered with joy and just a touch of sadness that her last week at camp was upon her, was simple. “I have had the chance,” she said, “to meet other kids with disabilities. That just does not happen in my everyday life.” She went on to talk about the lifelong friends she has made. Many of the campers come back year after year for a summer’s week of plain old fun.

S’mores, campfires, sing-a-longs, movies and projects. Horseback riding, swimming, fishing, These activities spell fun for any kid. For someone in a wheelchair a week like this can feel like heaven. These activities certainly figured in Nikki’s description of her summer camp experiences as she laughed at some of the memories. I was struck, though, that she emphasized over and over the independence, the friendships and the confidence she developed over these sixteen years.

Last June I stared in awe as a squealing kid was picked up out of her wheelchair, bundled into a basket, then sent on a wild ride on the zip line. She screamed with delight and just the right amount of fear. I closed my eyes and thought for a moment that I was standing in the middle of an ordinary amusement park on a summer’s day. Now, this year it’s Nikki and her enthusiastic, charismatic conversation that reminds how wonderful it is to be 21 and on your way, ready to face life’s challenges. How lucky for me that I already know I’ll find something wonderful and meet someone I’ll always remember on my next visit to Rocky Mountain Village.

Have you been to the Easter Seals Colorado camp? Please tell us about your experiences. If you have not visited camp, please put it on your summer list of incredible places to visit. To learn more about camp and Easter Seals please visit

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