Each year they travel across the country, originating from Washington State to Delaware, and locations in between. Their ages span as wide, sometimes with a forty-year gap between oldest and youngest. All arrive on wheels, a mode of transportation necessary for mobility as each participant experiences what common culture would refer to as a disability—Multiple Sclerosis, Spina Bifida, and spinal cord injuries. But these women, attendees of Camp Discovery, the signature program of The Cycle of Hope non-profit, over the course of three days, find themselves transcending that label of disability and redefining their limits, finding a renewed sense of confidence. By participating in a safe and unintimidating environment they push each other while pushing themselves, learning new skills, sharing information and forming life-long friendships.
Watching this transformation is enlightening, exciting and transformative for me as well. As Founder and Director of Camp Discovery, each year is a delight as I watch, on Thursday evening, a room full of strangers convene with looks of worry, wonder, unease or suspense and emerge on Saturday night as a new group of empowered women. It never gets old.
Camp Discovery, typically is held in August, in Empire, Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Village, home of the Easter Seal camp. Among a backdrop of forest greens and golds, oranges and burnt siennas, the location is an idyllic host to 15-18 participants annually.
Activities include challenges such as climbing a rock wall, and the reward of flying through the meadow on a zipline, as well as sports such as tennis, handcycling, boccia, lacrosse, and karate. Personal growth activities such as painting, cooking, or work with a personal coach are also offered. And for relaxation and returning to center, participants learn meditation and breathing skills, yoga and are treated to a healing massage.
The takeaways from Camp Discovery are, in many ways, intangible and hard to describe. But, here, in the words of some past participants are some of the many firsts experienced at Camp Discovery:
- First time flying on an airplane since my disability
- Realizing for the first time that I can still be beautiful despite my disability
- First time participating in an all-female, wheelchair sports setting
- First time meeting so many women in wheelchairs all in one place
- First time feeling like an athlete again
- Finally finding an activity I am really good at
- Learning that I have a support system
Each year is unique at Camp Discovery. The participants color the atmosphere, adding their own personalities and experiences to the group, but the one thing that remains consistent is that, in just three days, they learn, grow and are inspired to redefine their lives knowing what is possible.