Camp Friendship wins heart of senior

Camp Friendship wins heart of senior

Courtney Burke

Senior Courtney Burke volunteers with those who struggle with mental or physical disabilities at Camp Friendship

Katie Karlen

At the end of the 2008-2009 school year, senior Courtney Burke, then a sophomore, learned about Camp Friendship Ventures through Red Knight Volunteer Corps. Immediately interested by what the camp’s volunteer coordinator said about the camp, Burke decided to give it a shot. Now, almost three years and 225 hours later, Burke knows she made the right decision.

Camp Friendship Ventures is a non-profit agency that offers a camp experience for anyone of any age with any type of intellectual or developmental disability. “Everyone is so welcoming and fun there. My first time [there] I was scared that I didn’t know anyone, but that feeling soon left as I was introduced to the other volunteers,” said Burke.

For Burke, the camp provides more than just an opportunity to volunteer. “I enjoy camp so much because I always get so many good stories by the end of the week. Something weird happens to you; you experience something adorable or just laugh so hard till you cry because of what a camper said or did. Being at that camp made me appreciate the little things,” said Burke.

While volunteering at Camp Friendship Ventures yields some great memories, Burke acknowledges that days sometimes turn into a challenge. “With each camper comes struggles. Some campers are extremely stubborn or have severe mood swings, some have medical and eating problems, and some have hitting issues. I had to help feed, dress, watch over them, encourage them, and interpret what they needed if they couldn’t talk,” said Burke.

Spending weeks both in the summer and winter at camp, Burke experienced a range of different ages and difficulties. “I personally have [worked with] 8-year-old boys, 35-45 year-old men and 65 -75 year-old women. [With] some campers you wouldn’t even know [they] had a disability,” said Burke. Burke also emphasized that seeing the campers as a person and not feeling sorry for them makes the experience well worth the patience necessary to volunteer.

Burke cautions those interested in volunteering at Camp Friendship Ventures. “Be prepared to be a little stressed but also be prepared for how much you’ll end up caring for your campers…and maybe a little less sleep than you’ll usually get in the summer. But really, it is all worth it,” said Burke.