Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dragonfly Heart Camp 2011

This was easily the best week of my summer. I had a fabulous time working Dragonfly last year and I’ve been looking forward to it all this summer. Last summer I was asked to stay at EHOS longer than I had intended so I could work Dragonfly part time but help out in the kitchen and office the other part. This year I watched one of our directors’ son during the day and Dragonfly in the afternoons and evenings. I would have much rather worked Dragonfly full time, but it was presented to me in a way that suggested if I didn’t watch Ben some of the time I wouldn’t get to be on Dragonfly, so I gladly agreed. Working Dragonfly is a very coveted position among staff, usually given to senior staff, so I’m just glad I got to work it for the past two years.
So the week leading up to Dragonfly I hardcore cleaned the dorms, which I think I’ve mentioned. I mean, absolutely everything was vacuumed, swept, mopped, and disinfected, and no one was really put in charge of the prep cleaning, so I did the majority of it alone. I was fine with it actually because I get self conscience when others witness how fucking OCD I can get, but anyways! So everything was clean and ready to go. Like last year the CHOP Staff (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Staff) got here on Sunday and went sailing and to a BBQ. I was watching Ben when the kids arrived on Monday, so I wasn’t there to meet the parents and help get them settled. As excited as I was to see the kids again, I was also pretty nervous. I basically remembered all the campers and we’re told byt the CHOP staff that the kids talk about “camp” all year long and love it, but I was still nervous to see if the kids would remember me. I know I was just being stupid and I told myself it didn’t matter anyway, after all there was a lot of staff for the kids to remember, but let me tell you, nothing felt better than when I drove up on Monday afternoon and several of the campers from last year audibly said, “Yay! There’s Harper!” It was kind of great.
The first thing I realized was bow much the kids from last year had grown. I mean, I know teenagers grow up quickly, but I was still surprised. And a lot of these kid’s growth was set back while they were sick, so to see the kids that were obviously “behind” last year as just these normal kids was awesome. Two of the older girls, Ronnie(15) and Bree(14), became so pretty over the last year! It’s surreal to think that I only knew them for a week last year, but when I saw them this summer I was just so proud of them! Dragonfly is pretty incredible like that.
Everyday went along in the same manner: I’d wake up, grab breakfast with the Dragonfly kids, hang with Ben until about 2 or 3, then spend the rest of my day with Dragonfly. Since I was with Ben during the day I did miss out on going to the beach with them, which is something I particularly enjoyed last year, which was admittedly disappointing. Another thing that Dragonfly has gotten me to know more about is the Make a Wish Foundation. I’ve always known what it is and such, but basically all of these kids have had “a wish.” Its great to talk about what they did or what they think they’re going to do for it. Last year Ronnie had just come back from a week in Paris with her parents before she came here, and two of the girls this year had been to Disney and Universal earlier this summer with it. Kendall, who I have to admit is one of my favorites, is just this spunky 8yr old that is easily the size of a skinny 4yr old. She has pulmonary hypertension, so she wears a backpack that gives her a constant stream of medicine. I know the medical term for it, but I have no clue how to spell it. She is one of the girls that went to Disney this summer, so of course we talked about that a lot.
On Thursday night we had a crab feast and talent show. Even though the kids live in the Bay area, a lot of them have never eaten crab, so its hilarious to watch them crack them open for the first time and clean out all the guts and goo. The talent show was great too. The girls tried putting on a play, which of course was an epic failure, but some of the kids did a great job. One of the boys, who is almost completely deaf and blind, signed along to a song. One of the new campers, a 16yr old who is almost certainly gay, sang along to the Kelly Clarkson song “My Life Would Suck Without You” (at least I think that’s what its called). It seemed like a strange selection at first, especially for a guy, but then he got all of his doctors that helped him through his transplant last year and his performance nearly made me cry. A few of the girls sang and one brought her clarinet, but overall it was a great night.
On Saturday I was there for their departure and it was bittersweet. Several tears were shed but even more hugs were given. It’s a hard balance, because we all want to see the same campers here next year, and probably most of them will come back, but its such an important experience that we want even more new campers to come. The issue is that we have a limit of only 24 kids. I won’t worry about it, but it is kind of a rough predicament.
In conclusion, it was a fabulous week and although I am considering looking for an outdoor ed program with a change of scenery for next summer, I’d come back for Dragonfly in a heartbeat. I’d be more than happy to even volunteer for the week, and I’m so happy knowing that. I mean, obviously you’re supposed to find/have a job that makes you happy and fulfills you and shit, but who thought I would find one right out of high school?
Kendall before the dance on Wednesday night.

All of the campers and CHOP Staff

On a much sadder note, last Saturday one of our Dragonfly campers from last year passed away from a double lung infection. His name was Austin and I think he also had pulmonary hypertension. He didn’t come to camp this year because he had a girlfriend, and unfortunately he got sick quite suddenly and just couldn’t recover. He’s the first Dragonfly camper I’ve experienced “loosing,” so I’ve been thinking about his quite a lot over the past week.

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