Our friend Cathy Mahurin helped us out with this beautiful tribute to her son, who she sent to camp for the very first time this summer. In Camp Encourage, Cathy found the strength to let her son experience overnight camp and give him the confidence that he will have with him for a long time. She also gracefully and eloquantly paints a great picture on how we, as autism moms and dads, in the quest to help make some mistakes. But in the end, we all want the same for our children- a happy life with all the experiences of the world.
Dear Soon -to-be camper at Camp Encourage;
Son, you should know, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life.
It’s true, I admit it.
There was the time I put you on that horrible gluten and casin free diet and you cried when you stared at your plate, or all those times I treated you like you were a baby right in front of your peers. Let’s not forget the time I screamed and ran away when you picked up a real live gardner snake.
As you can see, Reagan, making mistakes comes easy for me. I don’t even try and they happen.
So, when it came time to drop you off at camp this summer, I got sick to my stomach thinking I had just made the biggest mistake I had made in a long time. I thought this one was way bigger than making you choke down that horrible batch of gluten free brownies or leaving you to fend for yourself against a snake.
The day we left, I know you were anxious to get to camp. You saw fun activities in the social story and couldn’t wait to do them- swimming, hiking, fishing, and the Kansas City Zoo animals visiting. You were ready to leave by seven in the morning and we didn’t need to be there until one. Your excitment and enthusiasm were my dread and dispare. Your desire to get to camp in a hurry was my desire to procrastinate and avoid taking you there altogether.
I have to tell you son; I was nervous. You had never been away from home, never spent over-night time with anyone that wasn’t family. I had an ache in the pit of my stomach the entire ride to camp.
When we finally arrived at camp and Kelly Lee greeted us and directed us to the cabin called ‘Shalom.’ I tried to take that as a sign that I should be peaceful and not anxious when I say good bye to you today. You were excited when we walked to the cabin and looked around, checked in at the nurses cabin, and perused the camp site. When we were finally all drained out of reasons to stick around, (don’t think I didn’t notice that you tried to ditch us a few times) we got in our car and headed toward the main meeting area of the camp site, leaving you behind.
That’s when my stomach tied up in knots and I wondered if I had just committed the biggest mistake ever. How could I just drive away? I’d never left you anywhere before. In order to make myself leave you at camp and drive away, I had to remind myself why I sent you off to camp in the first place.
That day, driving from Basehor, Kansas back to my home in Lee’s Summit, I recalled all those reasons why I did it. I made you go to camp because I wanted you to have the camp experience. I wanted you to get a little outside of your comfort zone and try something new. I also wanted to send a message to you. You can do this. Son, you can do this and I believe in you.
Reagan, I want you to know that you don’t have to settle for the world of autism, there is so much out there that you can try. Don’t settle for a cozy relationship with your ipad or tv, there are so many wonderful kids out there that would make extremely valuable friends. Don’t settle son, because settling is the easy thing to do and you just may find that the world outside of autism has something incredible to offer that you haven’t experienced before.
You are the hardest working ten-year old I know. You can make camp something grand, something you will have as your own. Don’t be afraid to soak it all in and learn and grow from it. Most of all have fun.
I may feel this hollow ache in the pit of my stomach at leaving you but I know, just know that you are in good hands. You don’t fail at anything that you try because you work so hard at and I am certain you can do this!
As for me, I will swallow this lump in my throat and I will be fine. I love you and you are important to me. You will do great at camp and we will celebrate when you get home. I will be hugging your face off so just deal with it. Oh, and have a glorious time at camp!
Thank you Cathy for putting into words what you were feeling the day Reagan went to camp! We are so proud of Reagan and you! Ella’s Hope is donating to $25 dollars in honor of Reagan and Cathy Mahurin to hopefully help other campers enjoy the experience!
Camp Encourage’s mission is to is to encourage social growth, independence, and self-esteem in youth with autism spectrum disorders through a quality, overnight camp experience located in the greater Kansas City area.
Camp Encourage is located at Tall Oaks Conference Center, a beautiful camp facility fifteen miles from both the western edge of Kansas City and from Lawrence, Kansas. More informaition can be found at https://campencourage.org/home.html