Friday, June 27, 2014

Camp: A Proven Source of Fun and Resilience

The first session of camp is already halfway over! We hope everyone is out there having a great time. 

As if we really needed to boast about MHKC any more (because you know it's awesome, we know it's awesome), buuuuuut just in case there are any doubts about how rad it is, how about some benefits of going to summer camp?

According to researcher and family therapist, Michael Ungar, Ph.D., summer camp is the perfect place for psychosocial development--if the camp is done right. I'm happy to say that Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp provides all seven things Ungar says all children need to develop strong comping strategies and resilience. But what makes MHKC super awesome is that all of the following benefits apply not only to campers, but to counselors as well.

1. New relationships.  Not only is it important to develop relationships with peers, but also with adults outside the family unit. Campers, counselors, and staff create bonds on an indescribable level. Genuine and lasting.

2. Comfort in identity and confidence in front of others.  Everyone finds a place to shine at MHKC, whether it's on the rock wall, fishing, crafts, or skit night. Counselors support their campers, but campers also provide counselors with a self assurance and sense of identity that they may not have had prior to their camp experience.

3. Sense of control.  Camp provides many of our campers an opportunity for independence in a safe environment. Even with no parents around, they accomplish amazing things, which gives a feeling of self-agency in their lives. 

4. Fair treatment.  Duh! Do we really have to go into this one? Camp is about fun and encouragement, and you can't have that without fairness. We believe in and promote the idea that variation is the norm.

5. Physical activity.  This is one of the aspects of camp that tends to take camper parents by surprise. How often does an individual with a physical disability, for instance, get to go ziplining or canoeing or rock climbing? Kiwanis Camp gives campers (and counselors!) the opportunity to engage with nature in fun and unconventional ways.

6. Sense of belonging.  Again, this is one of those "of course!" things about camp. Community, team building, encouragement, fostering relationships, singing, dancing, high-fiving, hugging... It goes on! Campers, counselors, and staff are caring individuals having the best two weeks of summer (or of he entire year!); nobody is left out or ignored. 

7. Sense of culture.  MHKC always provides campers and counselors with an enriched sense of self within a community. Learning about others and the self is a constant at camp, but what we love is that this learning is not in a classroom. It's not a seminar or a lecture. It's learning through fun and interaction. What could be better?

If you need further proof, check out this video and have a great time at camp!

Friday, June 20, 2014

StoryCorps + Disability Visibility Project Seek Stories About Disability

You know those StoryCorps recordings you might have heard on NPR's “Morning Edition”? Well, StoryCorps is partnering with the Disability Visibility Project, which kicks off this Monday as an effort to record disability history, especially as it pertains to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly 25 years ago.

StoryCorps is a national, independent nonprofit that has collected more than 45,000 interviews since 2003. Every interview becomes part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Its main purpose is to give people of all kinds a platform to share their stories and contribute to our oral history, reinforcing the idea of shared humanity and strengthening connections between people and cultures.

The Disability Visibility Project was founded by Alice Wong as a community partnership with StoryCorps San Francisco. From July 2014 to July 2015, anyone can go to a StoryCorps location (the west coast one is in San Francisco) and record their story about disability experience. Wong hopes that by recording and preserving these stories, disability history will be preserved and made accessible to everyone.

“The history of people with disabilities rarely appears in textbooks,” says Wong. “I’ve had the good fortune to meet so many fascinating and amazing people with disabilities who have been fighting for disability rights for decades. I believe their stories and the stories of everyday Americans with disabilities should be preserved.”

Here's (in short) how it works:

Two people who know one another go to a StoryCorps booth (including the touring Mobile Booth). 
They have a conversation however they want—no limits on language or format—for about 40 minutes. (Wong envisions this being a celebration of the ADA, but the purpose seems to be to record and preserve disability history in general.) 
Each person goes home with a CD of their conversation and knowledge that their story will be preserved in a distinct collection withing the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress in Washington.

Pretty awesome, right? San Francisco is not super close, of course, but how neat would it be to get some Kiwanis voices in the mix? Perhaps a camp road trip is in order... :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Teen Carries Brother 40 Miles for CP Awareness

Earlier this week, brother duo Braden and Hunter Gandee completed a 40 mile walk in the hopes of raising cerebral palsy awareness. Braden, who is seven years old, has cerebral palsy; Hunter, 14, carried him on his back the entire 40 miles.

They left from Bedford Junior High School in Temperance, Michigan on June 7th and, after an overnight stop, arrived at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Of course, the brothers were joined by a slew of supportive friends and family.

The walk was dubbed the Cerebral Palsy Swagger and was solely for the purpose of raising awareness about cerebral palsy and putting a face to the condition. However, that hasn't stopped people from showing their financial support on top of everything else. The Gandees have asked those who want to donate to go to the University of Michigan Cerebral Palsy Research Program.

“We've gotten contacted by the lead singer of Megadeath, and he's supporting us and donating,” says Hunter, who decided to put on the walk to show the next generation of researchers, engineers, and leaders that there is a need for progress regarding medical procedures and mobility devices. “We've gotten contacted by the Detroit Tigers, and they're on board and supporting us. Whole bunches of different people.”

Braden cannot walk on his own and usually gets around with a power chair, braces, or a walker. Last weekend, however, the 50-pound boy got a different view strapped to his brother's back. To help prepare for the trek, Hunter stayed active and lifted weights. But Braden also served as a huge source of strength.

“Whenever I'm going through something that's difficult and doing something that's hard, I see him and how he worked through it, and it just kind of pushes me through,” he says.

As for Braden, he knew he and Hunter would have no problems:

“My brother is awesome.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Archie Comics Introduce First Character with a Disability

Anyone who has read an Archie comic probably knows that they're not really what one would pick up to get a healthy dose of drama, controversy, or even the smallest trace of the unexpected. However, in the past few years, Archie comics co-CEO and publisher, Jon Goldwater, has made it part of his mission to add more and more diversity to the Riverdale gang. For instance, in 2010, the comic introduced its first openly gay character, Kevin. This month, Riverdale and Archie readers will be introduced to the comic's first character with a disability.

According to Archie writer and artist, Dan Parent, the new character, Harper, is inspired by real-life author, Jewel Kats, from her sense of fashion to the origins of her disability. Parent says that because of Jewel's snappy personality, it seemed natural for Harper to be connected to the fashion-forward, sassy Veronica, so they made the girls cousins. This also allowed the writers to give Harper an edge that she might not have had if she were, for instance, the cousin of girl-next-door Betty.

Regarding integrating Harper's disability into the story and her character naturally, Parent says:

"The important thing in creating a character with a characteristic like Harper: you do want to address it, but you don’t want to make a whole story about it. And in future stories, it probably won’t come up. Or it will, but only when it needs to. You don’t want the character to be only about that. With Harper, we acknowledged her disability, but we also acknowledged how it doesn’t define her, and it’s not all she’s about. And she uses her disability to empower other people. So we address it, but we don’t make the entire story about it. We want it to be entertaining. You don’t want to do it by preaching, just giving a list of characteristics without a story."

This fits in well with the comic's goal of making Riverdale a contemporary environment, where variety actually is the norm. By increasing character diversity and putting those characters in the always-welcoming environment people seek from Archie comics, a sort of seamless ideal presents itself, where everyone is different and that's just how things are without question or awkwardness.

Harper is set to debut on June 18th in issue #656.