Monday, February 8, 2016

It's the moments that matter … part 2

By Monica Vest Wheeler
Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Staff Volunteer

One of the many joys of Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp is the rediscovery of the simplest pleasures in life … which we often take for granted. Just waiting for those moments to happen is what makes me love everything about the Stroke Camp experience.

I'm extremely blessed to have the opportunity to photograph so many of these special memories, and here are just a few of these occasions from the 2015 camp season.

I loved watching Lauren Kramer, our director of operations, inviting one of our survivors to get up and dance at our Montana camp during the Saturday night entertainment. As many of the couples started to hit the floor, some of our staff and volunteers were looking for "singles" who might like the chance to dance. Lauren asked Irene, who is always up for some fun.

And it was so inspiring to witness Irene forget all about any physical challenges and simply move to the music. One of the greatest lessons I've learned about being involved with Stroke Camp is how important it is to just "ask" … ask a survivor or caregiver if they want to dance or sing or play or be part of the group.

If we'd all ask someone if they'd like to participate, so many walls and fears would be erased in this world. Don't just wonder if someone wants to do something, ask them. Sometimes that's all they need to hear to join the fun, to be invited, to be included. Just ask.

Stroke Camp is also all about encouraging our survivors and caregivers to express themselves creatively, and they don't have to be artists to create something truly amazing.

One of our crafts last year was a form of Japanese painting, a unique technique of applying small drops of paint to a special water base and watching them spread into beautiful images. I watched a lot of campers try this art form for the first time, but I was particularly drawn to Wayne at our Chicago-area camp and watching his priceless expression as he discovered that he could create art all by himself.

His face tells the story of the wonder of what the human mind and body can create when given an opportunity and canvas to dabble and design. Yes, you have a creative bone in your body, whether you think so or not, and that "talent" is different in everyone. We just need the right forum to express it, and Stroke Camp is one of the most creative environments in the world because our campers are encouraged to be themselves.

A little nudge, a little encouragement, a little patience, a lot of love … it all goes a long way at Stroke Camp …

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