Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Privilege of Volunteering

By Monica Vest Wheeler
Stroke Camp Volunteer

I'm a Hoosier girl and I can boast if I want to
In recent years at Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp (RRSC), I've had the privilege of volunteering alongside physical therapy students studying at the University of Indianapolis, which has one of the best PT programs in the nation.

Between their first and second years, students sign up to attend a camp that gives them an opportunity to be around individuals with challenges in an environment outside the classroom and clinical setting.

RRSC opened its doors a few years ago to the UIndy students, and I've been so impressed with each and every one of them. They've attended Stroke Camps all the way from Living Springs in Central Illinois to Colorado.

These "kids" didn't need my help!
Last year and this year, I was able to attend the university's mid-May service fair in which PT students who volunteered in the previous year share their experiences with prospective volunteers for the coming year. 

It was a privilege to represent RRSC and watch these enthusiastic young adults "sell" Stroke Camp, and these "kids" didn't need my help doing it. to my ears because these students "got it."

One of their instructors asked them what they gained from the experience, and it was music to my ears because these students "got it." 

They talked about getting to know stroke survivors and caregivers as unique human beings in the relaxed Stroke Camp environment. They learned much about the everyday challenges that survivors and caregivers face by observing and interacting, and they found the separate sessions for survivors and caregivers very eye-opening.

A few of our students had the opportunity to attend camps where children of survivors and caregivers were in attendance, and they could witness family dynamics and how families cope with stroke, no matter the limitations or challenges survivors face. One described how a parent could finally spend quality alone time with their child while the survivor enjoyed their own activities at camp. These are the experiences and moments most people take for granted, not understanding how precious they are to stroke families until they face it themselves.

Physical therapy students at the University of Indianapolis who volunteered at Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp during the 2013 camp season were, from left,
Megan Dennis, Kristina Tyler, Alyssa Zeller, Lisa Boester, Jenna Meyer, Melissa Davidson and Kelsey Wendholt.

Along with their sales pitch for RRSC, these students also "warned" prospective volunteers to sign up ASAP because slots were limited and fill quickly … especially the ones in Colorado … Hmm, I wonder why …


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