By Michaela Gibbons
Michaela Gibbons is a staff member at Camp Munroe.
Chances are, if you work at UNMC, you are familiar with a camp called Camp Munroe. I have volunteered at Munroe since I was 14, and have been working there since I turned 16. This is a camp for people with disabilities, where they are given the tools and friendships to reach their full potential.
But that doesn’t even begin to explain what Camp Munroe is. No — it doesn’t even scratch the surface.
For me, Camp Munroe is a place where I can go and share my passion with the other staff and volunteers. It is a place of learning, as I am able to come together with people who share the same love for people with disabilities and learn things from each other as we bounce ideas off of one another and figure out how to make each person successful.
It is a place where I am able to mentor young middle school and high school kids who have a love for people with disabilities and teach them all of the things that I have learned at camp throughout the years. It is a home away from home where I can be my whole self and feel nothing but love from every single person in the building.
Camp is a network of families whom I have gotten the privilege to meet and grow close to, due to our common love for their spectacular child. It is a safe haven where I have made lifelong friendships with not only other staff, but with participants of all ages. Camp Munroe is a place that overflows my heart with so much joy and love and passion, and allows me to spread all of that goodness onto each and every person who walks under that yellow canopy.
But that’s just me.
To the kids who walk through the glass double doors every morning, camp is everything. To the campers, it is a place where they are looked at as “normal.” It is a safe place where they can go and know that they are going to be treated with all the respect that they deserve.
To the campers, Camp Munroe is a place of opportunity; a place where they are able to play and dance and swim and swing and cook and draw and paint and sing and do everything any child of any ability should be able to do. To the kids, it is a circle of trust that forms bonds that will never be broken. Friendships that will last a lifetime, with people who understand them on a deeper level than most. It is a week that is highlighted on their calendars, while they are counting down the days until it is finally here. Camp Munroe is the place where they can go and be “just another kid” — which is what every single child desires.
And to the parents of the campers?
Camp Munroe is a safety blanket. An environment where they are able to leave their child knowing with all the confidence in the world that their child will be safe. Not only safe, but their child will be given the opportunities to grow, while having so much fun.
One morning, I overheard a parent saying, “This is the only place where I can leave and be able to do normal everyday things without worrying about what is going on with my child.” To this parent, Camp Munroe is a place where they don’t have to worry. To parents, camp is a place of opportunity where they know that their child will be given the tools to be set up for success in all areas. It is a place where they know that they will grow, and learn, and achieve all while having the time of their life. To parents, Camp Munroe is a break — a break from having to worry, a break from having to stress. The parents who walk with their child into the double glass doors are able to leave without them, and breathe, knowing their child is in safe hands.
Camp Munroe means so much to so many people. I assure you that every single person who has gotten the opportunity to walk into the doors under the yellow canopy, has come out as a better person because of camp — people who laugh a little harder, smile a little brighter, and love a little harder. I leave work in a better mood than I was in when I got there. How awesome is that?