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My Summer Camp Experience

This past Friday, August 13th, I had the privilege of attending the Talent Show at Camp Royall.  I was there to welcome families and give them information about ASNC.  As it turned out, I got much more from the experience than what I gave.  

I arrived early to the Camp’s gym and sat out on the wide porch in a rocker enjoying a gentle breeze and the summer sounds of bird song and insect whir.  Slowly, families of all sizes began to arrive.  They were mostly quiet and looked expectant.  I ended my reverie and joined them in the large gym.  Then, at the appointed time,  the campers and counselors entered.  The first small boy I noticed came in and spied his mother.  His eyes brightened when he saw her and a smile greeted her.  She was clearly glad to see him and embraced him with a hug that only a mother can know when their precious child has been out of their sight and care for several days.  As she kissed his head and told him that she had missed him, he wiggled away and pointed at his counselor and other happy campers.  He was bubbling with excitement and news of his adventure.  Other campers came — some walking, some running, some skipping.  And, like the first boy, they were happy to see their families but it was evident they had enjoyed their time at camp and were not eager to let go the experience and rush home.  The exuberant counselors led the campers, their families and staff in some of the songs they had sung during the previous week — silly and sunny.  Afterward, I welcomed folks and reminded them that ASNC is more than just a week at Camp Royall.  But that news was overshadowed by the Grand Finale of the Talent Show!  Every camper and counselor had planned a performance to showcase the camper’s particular interest or skill.  There was singing and dancing, running and jumping, car racing and wagon pulling, clapping and bouncing.  The performers beamed and blushed when the audience applauded.  After each performance, a counselor presented the camper they had served during the week with an award the counselor had designed to reflect the uniqueness of the camper.  The awards were heartwarming and certainly creative.  When the show was over and the families were collecting tote bags and shirts and their campers to head home, I found myself holding back tears.  I wanted to hug them all — the brave campers who had been away from home for the first time ever, the dedicated counselors who had worked so hard for the campers to enjoy their week, and the families who love their children beyond measure.  Instead, I went to my car and drove away thinking of my own son and how far he has come since that first week so many years ago when he was a first time camper.  That experience and this one were both priceless.

The Autism Society of NC can boast proudly of their treasure — Camp Royall.  A haven for folks with autism and their families, Camp Royall sits on 133 acres in Moncure, NC.  The camp has 2 full time staff, Sara Gage and David Yell, several part time workers and many wonderful volunteers who keep it running throughout the year.  Camp Royall is a year round facility that hosts summer camp as well as fall respite weekends, Family Fun Days and Winter Day Camp during the December holiday school break.  This past year $55,000 was raised for camp scholarships.  This was a record!  Although we are proud of that accomplishment and appreciate the support of all the donors, we could not meet all the demands for scholarships.  Therefore, we are challenged to raise more funds in the coming year to support our camp families. We are honored to offer the opportunity for parents to see their child grow in confidence and take a step out into the greater world — one where they find acceptance and encouragement.  Priceless.

Linda Griffin

August 15th, 2010

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