I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon at the Arizona MDA Summer Camp last week. VMI as a corporation gives all charitable donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and has been for over 10 years. VMI employees work closely with the local Phoenix MDA office for special events and fund raising activities. When they invited us up to the VIP/Family day at the Summer Camp, we jumped at the opportunity.
We drove up to Heber, AZ where the camp was being held and got there just as the “Cheer for Soccer Tournament Playoffs” began. This is played by the kids in wheelchairs kicking or pushing a huge beach ball into the opponent’s goal. They played in the recreation center of the camp, on the basketball court. There were two teams, and both consisted of kids in manual wheelchairs and kids in powered wheelchairs. The kids that are in manual wheelchairs are wheeled around by a camp volunteer and they played first. The second group of kids was the ones in powered wheelchairs and didn’t need any volunteer assistance. I couldn’t believe the energy in the room, with a live DJ and MC, it was exciting to just be there.
The matches were competitive and lively and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I was pleasantly surprised as I looked around and saw that the volunteers were mostly all high school kids. I don’t know what I was expecting to see but it wasn’t this wonderful group of young people who have given up a week to spend with disabled children. “Spend” isn’t the correct word since each volunteer is responsible for one camp member. That means, ensuring all their needs are met and being their caregiver for the week. Some kids who need more care are teamed with 2 or 3 camp volunteers.
At this particular MDA summer camp,there were 95 camp attendees and over 150 volunteers. The MDA camp is held every year and in almost every state. Any child ages 6-17 who has Muscular Dystrophy can attend summer camp, free of charge. The only requirement is that the child is registered with the MDA, which is also free. The cost for one camper to attend the camp is approximately $800, which the MDA pays. It immediately hit me just how important donation dollars and fund raising activities are to organizations such as the MDA.
I have worked for VMIfor four years and have been involved with the MDA telethon, the MDA Stride and Ride and other MDA fundraising activities. I have met so many wonderful families, many of them we have used in our VMI Photo Shoots. But what I failed to do was connect the dots, that was until last week. I saw all the work that went into raising money, but I didn’t see where that money went. How wonderful it is to see your donation dollars be put to such good use. This camp last week was just for the kids. Parents were only allowed to come one day for “family day” and other than that, it was kids just being kids. What an amazing gift for a child who has Muscular Dystrophy, to be able to be around friends and people who understand your disability.
Without personal and corporate donations, things like the MDA Summer Camp couldn’t exist. Donations don’t have to be $800, but please donate something. When my friend Tara hosted her annual Race For Grace, she recommended that people start a “10 for $10 campaign”; Ask 10 people you know to donate $10, think about how easy that is. All I ask is that you get involved, whether it be financial or by donating your time. The 150 volunteers didn’t come out of the woodwork, and organizations cannot survive without volunteers.