Paradise Was Everything We Dreamed About, and More: Week 1 Recap

Paradise for us looks like a shaving cream war, or a bake off, or horseback riding at Hooray! We are so grateful to serve over 500 campers this summer, and it’s only week 1. Camp is so crucial to our campers for so many reasons. It helps them overcome some fears, break barriers with social anxiety, or allows our participants to make new friends! Look at all the fun we’ve been having over here!

Moments Made in Paradise 

First Day Vibes

Picture this: You’re new to ESP and Monday morning (the first day of camp) is the first time you step out of your car and walk, ride, run through those double doors past the big tree. Everyone is chanting your name as loud as they possibly can, and they’re waving pom poms in the air to the beat of YMCA. The air smells like sunscreen, and you can feel the happiness radiating throughout everyone. Camron Rodgers, a new participant to ESP, stepped out of the car on Monday and experienced this all while getting to meet a new family all at once along with other new campers. 

Being a first time camper, Camron was a little skeptical about camp. One day, his unit went to the pool and he dunked his head under water. He conquered his fear that day by slowly warming up to the idea of going under. 

His mom came to pick him up, and the staff told her that he went all the way underwater 3 times and his mom gasped and said, “He’s NEVER done that before, what an amazing accomplishment!” We live for these moments here at camp, and it’s what makes our mission so special. 

Musicians in Paradise

One of our favorite 360 afternoon programs is Music Mondays, so why not bring that to paradise too? Thanks to the UGA Music Therapy program, we were able to have music therapy for all of our campers. 

Kristen Taylor, a long-time participant of ESP, had the week of her life with her buddy. During music therapy, she began to hear the beginning notes of “Firework” by Katy Perry start to play on a student’s guitar. She leaped up and ran to the center of the circle and started performing the choreography in precise, timely movements. Her buddy was amazed at her enthusiasm and passion for the music! Kristen started a chain reaction and everyone joined in the dance party. Normally, Kristen is on the quiet side, but she demolished the song and sang her heart out!

Bowling Strikes in Paradise

Kody, one of our youngest campers this year, was paired with Jackson, and they were a match made in heaven! He was a little hesitant to go bowl his first ball, but Jackson was right by his side the entire time. Once he saw all of his friends bowling, he got right up there, picked up a ball and bowled two strikes! Hip, hip, hooray for Kody being a pro bowler! 

Camp Crew Spotlight:

Julie, a participant at ESP, and now a camp crew member, says she has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to organize, create, and plan out activities for her unit each day. She said it’s a “good kind of different” experience that she never imagined could be so exciting. Julie was in the adulting corps classes this past year, and we love her enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and positive attitude! 

Adventure Camp Magic

Aysha, a longtime participant at ESP, said that Adventure Camp was her favorite week at camp in the many years she’s attended. She felt “one with nature” and had the opportunity to ride horses, garden, and paint! It was incredible to see people of every ability engaging in activities that they normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to take part in.

Week 2 on the Horizon

Our doors will be open next week for another round of incredible campers! We can’t wait for the magic to continue, and to watch our participants grow and flourish in so many different ways. It’s the little moments that create a bigger picture for all of our staff and community. Working to create transformative experiences for people of all abilities is an honor for our staff, and we cannot wait to see what next week brings us!