MDA Camp: 'They're learning they can do it all on their own'
SALEM, Ore. - Thousands of kids are deprived of doing everyday things because they have muscular dystrophy, but one summer camp's goal is to help those kids go beyond their limitations.
At Macleay Christian Retreat in Salem, campers are spending a week proving they can do anything they want to.
Horseback riding, hockey, and capture the flag are just a few of the activities the campers partake in. They range in age from six to 17 and they aren't letting muscular dystrophy slow them down. Instead, they're overcoming it.
"They're being their own best advocate and they're learning they can do it all on their own. That's one of their favorite things they get to do.
Muscular Dystrophy causes progressive weakness and muscle degeneration. It forces many to be confined to a wheelchair and it has no cure.
"Everyday life is a struggle for us," said 16-year-old Quinnell Flanagan. Flanagan said she usually keeps to herself, but the camp gave her a sense of belonging.
"As a kid, I was shy and this helped me open up, definitely because I'm around people who are just like me," she said.
To 9-year-old Matthew James, it taught him resilience.
"Well, my message is 'Keep trying.' There's always a way to work around things," he said.
The program pairs each camper with a counselor. Counselors said they're learning from the experience too.
"That's why I like it here, because they provide the help you need and they give you an opportunity and experience things you normally don't get to experience," James said.
Everyone around the camp is learning the most important lesson of all - the best kind of strength isn't physical, it's mental and if you can think it, you can find a way to do it.
"Just that freedom and autonomy, being able to choose what activity she gets to do and have that be on her own schedule and not someone else's," said Allison Chambers who has been a counselor for 10 years.
The last day of camp is Saturday but campers and counselors said the bonds made will last past the end of the week.
The campers travel to Salem from across Oregon and Southwestern Washington. If you want to learn more about the Muscular Dystrophy Association, click here.