Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch

**Warning: Extremely long post. Can you handle it? ;)** Will add more pictures soon...

I had planned to post my DIY wedding Save the Date but I forgot to take and send a picture to myself, so that will have to wait until another day (tomorrow?). Since I have no pictures or crafts to add, but didn't want to post without purpose, I thought I'd put in a plug for Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch. This place holds my heart and certainly could not be missed at A Clearing in the Woods. I'm sure it will come up again.

Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch ("Double H") is part of Paul Newman's Association of Hole in the Wall Camps. Double H was founded by Paul Newman and Charles Wood for children ages 6-16 facing chronic or life-threatening illnesses. Let me tell you this is THE most magical place on earth. I'm really not sure how I can even put it into words for you. Double H changes lives, both of the incredible campers and the amazing staff.

I first began working at Double H in 2007 as a camp counselor and was immediately hooked. Being a camp counselor at Double H you get this indescribable, glorious, inspiring feeling with all the love and laughter and good things you give to children who have things a little tougher than most. Parents are trusting you with their children, who face innumerous daily challenges, to care for them and give them the time of their life at summer camp feeling like a "normal" kid. It's far from easy. It's loooooong days (and sometimes long nights), exhausting both mentally and physically (you're the 24/7 friend!) and, truthfully, can feel unappreciated. But when the tears stream on departure day and that one camper just won't let go of you, you know there are 10 more that did and felt just as sad to leave you. You were their friend, role model, confidant, caretaker, diaper-changer, shoulder-to-lean on, tear-wiper, joke-teller, big sister/brother, teacher, piggy-backer, food server, cheerleader, rollercoaster partner, campfire singer, high-ropes supporter, crisis soother, swim instructer...... for one week you get to be all this and more for kids who need some extra love.

I was lucky enough to be able to work at Double H for the 2007, '08 and '09 summer seasons as a Unit Leader. I met Greer there in 2007 and even though we didn't like each other then, we reunited in spring 2008 and love blossomed. Greer has actually worked there since 1999! Sadly, this summer we won't be able to return full-time, but we will certainly volunteer for at LEAST 1 session, hopefully more. This depresses me to no end. All of the counselors Facebook statuses talk about camp, returning, applying and I am quite jealous of them, but all good things must come to an end and we have to grow up someday. You can't stay in Neverland, right? I digress.

I cannot imagine not meeting 7 groups of incredible, hilarious, difficult, spontaneous, creative, clever, and sweet kids this summer. I can't even pick a session to volunteer, because I have too many favorite kids I'll miss! There's 6 year old Tia on a ventilator who's learning to talk and eat again, Emma with Cerebral Palsy who is 12 at a 1 year old mental level, young campers from NYC who have HIV and no support system, Sophia with rare Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva whose muscles are quickly turning to bone but she is sharp as a tack and has a great sense of humor, Z from Ohio who's growing up fast with Sickle Cell Anemia and is a cuddler if you get past his tough shell, on and on and on and on. And then my campers who have grown up to be Counselors in Training! Amazing. I'll miss them and have no idea how I'll decide when to go back. But go back I will. My dream is to work there full-time (maybe I can have John's job....?). New York is too cold though.. phew!

You do amazing things at Double H. I've had the honor of carrying at least two children up through the high ropes course who otherwise would not have the opportunity because of their Muscular Dystrophy. I got to help a teenager get through her disgusting medicine routine by letting her make me a doubly-gross concoction to drink while she drank her yucky meds. I got to be a part of the important lesson to a group of 6-year-olds that even though someone cannot speak, walk or seem to understand much, she can still feel what they feel and want love and joy like they do. On multiple occasions I had the awesome opportunity to do hand-over-hand arts and crafts, helping kids with little or no muscle control make wonderful creations to bring home. At Double H, you get to be a part of a web of incredible bonds, with your campers and with staff and volunteers. It. is. magic.
I guess I put this out there in hopes that you, reader, will take a look at Double H and get inspired to get involved. Apply to work as a counselor, volunteer for a session, make a donation to keep the camp running. It's free for all the campers and only a small percentage of the budget comes from Newman's Own products (although you do get your fill of every Newman's Own product on the line, from salad dressing to lemonade to cereal). Please, please ask me any questions about Double H. It's my favorite topic!!

I'm off to fill out my volunteer application. You should too!

Get Inspired. Go Inspire.Double H Ranch.

Getting silly in the Double H costume room!

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