The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

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Anchoring My Heart
Anchoring My Heart

As I watched my big brother volunteer to play basketball at the Garden City Athletic Association Challenger Program for children with disabilities, I was full of anxiety. My brother would encourage me to join but I'd shrug my shoulders and say "maybe next time." I wasn't sure what was holding me back from interacting with these disabled children and knew I had to face my intimidation. One day Matt Castellano, a good friend who has Down syndrome, tossed the basketball to me and I threw it back. The smile on Matty's face left me breathless and I continued to join my brother every Saturday morning and volunteered to play basketball. While volunteering at the Challenger program, I heard about Camp Anchor (Answering the Needs of Children Handicapped through Organized Recreation) in Lido Beach and got myself on the waiting list. I was hired as a volunteer to work that summer. I kept hearing how magical Anchor was and exciting my summer would be. As soon as I started, I understood. The colorfully striped tents and energetic staff made me feel as if I was walking into a carnival. There were times at camp when I found myself wanting to cry. The rush of emotions I at first did not understand. The feelings I was having were not out of pity, but out of respect. These children had so many mental or physical ailments and were able to overcome their fears, that my anxiety now seemed minimal. Whether it was finally being able to swim to the deep end with their life vests or stand in the waves of the ocean their fears were faced. I absolutely adored my campers and the love and gentleness they gave to me. Summer before freshman year, I was intimidated that I would now "have" to interact with a new group of peers. I attended Garden City Public Schools until eighth grade and then decided to go to Sacred Heart Academy. The intimidation of introducing oneself to new people can be nerve racking, especially for me. My volunteer services have helped me realize how blessed I am and how to approach the trepidation I sometimes feel. Not only have they helped me socially, academically, I approach each lesson or test with great excitement. I love to challenge myself and worked hard to enroll in an Advanced Placement course. I felt that if my campers can jump into the deep end of the pool, or stand in the waves of the ocean, I could face my fears of introducing myself, or taking an AP exam. My campers' courage and strength have inspired me to not be fearful of new social or academic challenges. The campers taught me to face everyday struggles with great excitement and courage. Because of my volunteer experiences, I have the willpower and strength to face everyday obstacles. I will never forget the bond between my campers and I, and look forward to the summer when I will be volunteering at Camp Anchor.




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Jacqueline Vita, United States, NY
4/24/2013 3:01:03 PM
Touching story that includes mentioning a dynamic young man (Matthew Castellano) who has continually demonstrated that one can do anything in life if you try. Camp Anchor touches the lives of those who are campers, the staff and the many families as well who enjoy seeing their child enjoy the program and making friends. Paige brings this all together in her story so nicely. Thank you for the great contribution all around.

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