I've been fortunate, having had many memorable summer experiences I could write about for this disability blog carnival. There were my summers as a camp counselor in the Poconos, which I remember fondly. I also played competitive wheelchair tennis for over a decade, traveling to many places such as Hilton Head, Virginia Beach, San Diego and even to Flushing NY, the site of the US Open. I rolled onto the same tennis courts played on by Sampras, Agassi and the Williams sisters. Pretty lucky quad, huh?
But my most memorable summer experience was attending Sports for Health, part of the northeast Ski for Light program held in the Poconos. It's a program run by volunteers for mobility and visually impaired participants (called MIPS and VIPS). In the winter, there's cross country skiing and in the summer, there are picnics, kayaking, biking, hiking, swimming, playing games, and even some camping for those who prefer to sleep outside the lodge.
What's so special about the experience is the people. There's an atmosphere that supports trying new activities and encouraging people to have a good time while doing it. The late night chats, the hilarious talent shows that make you cry and laugh, and the family style meals give plenty of opportunity to get to know everyone else who's there.
As the only MIP who attended that summer, a lot of VIPS were curious about my wheelchair. A few tried it out and wanted to race in it, but because many of the activities were outside on grass and my manual chair wasn't so good on it, people kept checking to make sure I was getting around okay. This led to a pretty funny situation.
On the day I tried kayaking, I transferred at the dock into a kayak with the help of staff, leaving my wheelchair alone on the sand. We paddled out halfway onto the lake when I saw a commotion around my wheelchair. VIPS were practically jumping up and down around my wheelchair and I heard them calling my name.
"What's up?" I asked the woman with me in the kayak. She shrugged.
Upon our return, I discovered that a VIP had walked by my wheelchair, assuming I was in it, and started a conversation. When I didn't answer, the person leaned down to touch my shoulder and found that my chair was empty and began yelling to everyone that I was missing. Luckily someone explained that I was out on a kayak.
But when I got back to shore, I was emphatically told by a few folks not to leave my chair again without letting them know.
My heart still warms when I think of that trip. I hope everyone going this year has as much fun as I did.