"Embrace who you are," Saxony, camper
When 7-year-old Saxony’s physical therapist suggested Saxony might benefit from going to Camp Courage, Saxony hated the idea. Now 18, she recalls with an infectious laugh, “I kept trying to figure out why my parents were punishing me. What had I done wrong?”
That was 11 years and 11 summer camp sessions ago. “Oh my gosh, I wouldn’t miss Camp for the world!” she said. “It’s fantastic!”
Saxony, who has cerebral palsy, attended Courage Center’s Youth Camp as a kid, then Teen Camp when she turned 13. While she enjoys all Camp activities, she admits to “absolutely loving” tubing (“I love the water,”) and horseback riding. “My balance is a little off, so I usually ride double with a counselor. I mean, you’re up fairly high, and that ground is pretty hard!”
Most of all, Saxony loves the freedom of Camp – the freedom to do things “you probably can’t do at home” and to interact with others.
“I remember one night at Camp, we had five girls all jammed into one cabin with all our walkers, chairs and various equipment – you could hardly move – and we just hung out until way past ‘lights out’ laughing and talking. Ironically, we were talking about various surgeries we had experienced. And we all understood exactly what the others were talking about because we’d faced similar challenges.
“That companionship is so important! I understand them; they understand me. We acknowledge ourselves. That helps us live our lives positively.”
Saxony enjoys connecting with camp friends each session as well as meeting new friends. “And the counselors? They’re just like us campers, only bigger. They have as much fun as we do. In fact, I keep in touch with campers and counselor friends year round through Facebook, texting and e-mail.”
Now a senior at Maple Grove High School, Saxony is exploring career options. Perhaps not surprisingly, she’s looking into Courage Center’s Counselor in Training program. “Being a camp counselor may be the perfect way to continue enjoying camp and be able to give back at the same time. And it’s great work experience.”
As a camping pro this past summer, Saxony was called upon to talk to homesick “newbies.” “After all, I know exactly what they’re going through,” she said, recalling her emotional first camping session. “It really helps to have a fellow camper understand and tell you it’s OK to be homesick. I even tell them it’s OK to be afraid: Camp is a new environment, and you can’t possibly know what to expect.
“But I also tell them to have an open attitude. Think of time at camp as independence, because it really is. Be yourself and have fun. Embrace who you are.”