During Camp PALS Princeton closing ceremonies, a fellow friend gave one of the most amazing speeches I have ever heard and I wanted to share it on my blog. Not only is this great human a PALS counselor, but he is also a sibling to an incredible older brother with Down Syndrome. I couldn't think of better words to describe the experience...
"I'd like to take a quick moment to thank all of the directors, counselors and campers for a truly unforgettable week. Moreover Id like to thank the parents for sharing their amazing children with us all for the week. Everyone involved with this camp is truly blessed beyond measure to share and spend life changing moments with your sons and daughters and family members. It is a true testament to your strength, perseverance and parenting the fact that Camp Pals is such an incredible organization.
There is a saying in the Down syndrome community that states "we are more alike than different". This camp is a perfect display of the ideology that validates such a statement. For a week we have all been lucky enough to connect, interact and grow with your beautiful children. We are all so alike in the sense that, as a collective camp we are simply 40 college age adults anxious and apprehensive for an experience away from home. By the same token, we are also individuals defining who we are as persons by fulfilling our lives with people who may look a little different than us, who made need different supports than us but who live and love in an equally genuine and compassionate manner.
I am forever indebted to the people seated around you. For I have been able to share this week with my brother, Owen. Together we make up a family that is blessed with an eldest brother, an individual with Down syndrome. To be surrounded by a community so inclusive, so overly welcoming, and so undeniably accepting of young adults with Down syndrome, is to be around a group of people that both refreshes and reminds me of the memory of the home I was raised in.
To enumerate, as I observed the scenes during a staple of camp festivities, karaoke night. I saw the proud and overjoyed expressions of the campers singing their hearts out to the song of their choosing. Such expressions were complemented by their coinciding counselors faces. Faces glowing with love, respect, and awe as the campers of camp pals brought a bit of the nirvana from their daily lives to the front of the stage we gathered around.
There is no place in the world like Camp Pals and with camp pals in it, the world is a better place. Thanks again and a big shoutout to my camper Alex who reminded me why this week is the best greatest of all 52 weeks of the year."
Autism from a sibling's point of view...
My name is Paige and I am 26 years old. I graduated from Towson University with a Psychology Bachelors Degree and from Johns Hopkins with a Post-Bacc Certificate in Education of Autism and other Pervasive Disorders at . I recently left my job at Kennedy Krieger Institute and began my Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at University of South Florida. My younger brother, Sammy, is 20 and has Autism. He is non-vocal, unaware of safety, is not toilet trained, cannot get himself dressed, and has difficulty with everyday activities that we all take advantage of. He works harder every single day of his life than anyone I know and he always does it with a smile on his face. He is my true hero and inspiration and because of him, I have dedicated my life to advocating and creating opportunities for individuals with Autism. I hope that I can make him proud and this blog is just a small part of the awareness I hope I can create about Autism and support other siblings impacted by Autism. I love you Sammy - thank you for everything.