Monday, May 30, 2016

Letters to Future Counselors V

A photo of a line of people facing away from the camera, their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders.  They are sitting on a flat, man-made rock formation.  They stare out at a deep blue lake and, beyond that, the lightly snow-covered Mt. Hood.  There is a yellow canoe on the right side of the lake, standing out starkly against the blue water, and some other canoes are farther back.  On the right of the photo, a few beached canoes can be seen resting on the shore.  Thick, dark green trees surround the lake, and a few wispy white and gray clouds are in the light blue sky.
Photo Courtesy of Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp

As we come to the end of Spring term, many students will be looking ahead toward summer term and their session at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp.  To help put to rest any last-minute jitters, we have some more advice from former counselors, written as part of the “Letters to Future Counselors” assignment they receive at camp.  You can read more letters like this by browsing our Letters to Future Counselors tag.

Have a wonderful summer, and good luck at camp!

(Please note that letters may be lightly edited, and names are removed for privacy reasons.)

First letter:

Expect to get a life experience that you will never forget.  Don’t dream about having the same living situation as your home, but the experience of a traveler that you will miss many things yet, have unforgettable and rewarding experience I would guarantee you will never regret!


And second letter:

I was excited and nervous the first day of camp.  Meeting my camper made me want to puke, I prayed he’d like me and that it would be an experience I’d never forget—and it was.  Campers come in various flavors, and they are just like us: moody, funny, sad, happy, and tired.  But, no matter what flavor they are, each of them has something that sparkles brighter than any trait I possess.  A person with a disability has experienced life in a completely different way than I have—I have learned more from my campers than I could have imagined.  Here are some practical tips:  Bring a battery powered alarm clock; bug repellant and sunscreen will make your post-camp life easier; get to know your fellow counselors.  I wish this note could be more informative, but I feel like no amount of training or supplies could prepare me for this amazing experience.


We hope you enjoyed these letters, and from all of us here at the MHKC capstone, have a very happy summer!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Paralyzed artist makes paintings using mouth to control brushes

Henry Fraser is an artist.  He sketches and paints with pencils and brushes, and sometimes uses photo references to create his pictures.  His process, however, is anything but ordinary.  Fraser is paralyzed, and all of his creations are made using the only part of his body he can still move: his mouth.
Around seven years ago, Fraser was vacationing in Portugal away from his home in the UK, when he dove into what he thought was a deep section of the sea.  In reality, it was a sand bank.  The impact crushed his spinal cord and displaced several of his neck vertebrae, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the shoulders down.

His life has not been easy since then, with surgeries and sicknesses becoming frequent occurrences.  About a year ago, the former rugby player was getting bored after being stuck in bed with an illness, and it was then that he discovered an app on his iPad that allowed him to draw when he held a stylus in his mouth and touched it to the screen.  He loved the app, and soon moved on to non-digital drawing, attaching brushes and pencils to a mouth stick to create his works.
Since then, he has been painting anything from animals to actors to sports champions whom he admires.  His work has attracted the attention of the public, and he counts celebrities like soccer player David Beckham among his admirers.  A pencil drawing he did of golfer Rory McIlroy for a charity golf day caught the attention of McIlroy himself, who ended up contacting Fraser and donating his own items to the charity golf day.
Several news outlets have noted the remarkably positive outlook Fraser has maintained about his life in spite of his hardships.  He has said that without the illness he had when he discovered the iPad app, he never would have rediscovered his love for drawing and painting.  And on Twitter he’s reflected that he would probably have a boring life now if not for his accident, concluding that adversity has given him a gift.

You can learn more about Henry Fraser on his website and Twitter feed, as well as from CNN, Newsweek, and The Telegraph.

Monday, May 16, 2016

MHKC camper Eli Kerr featured on KGW

Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp camper Eli Kerr has been featured on local news station KGW!  The story details the teenager’s unique “promposal” to his friend Megan Schiedler.

Kerr and Schiedler met when they were just three months old, in a play group for children who have Down syndrome.  The two have been friends ever since, and they both go to Lake Oswego High School, where they have attended dances before.  But as a senior, this year would be Kerr’s last prom.

Kerr made a sign to ask Schiedler to prom, one that read “Megan, Be My Girl at Prom?”  Kerr is in choir, and a fellow singer explained that he loves the song “My Girl.”  So he asked the rest of the choir for some help with his request.

On the day of the proposal, Schiedler was brought out of her art class to find Kerr waiting for her in a suit, a line of choir singers behind him, all singing “My Girl.”

The choir made one small change to the words of the song: in later versions of the chorus, where the original song says “talking ‘bout my girl,” the Lake Oswego High School choir sang “talking ‘bout Megan.”

When the song was finished, Kerr asked Schiedler he could take her to prom, and she said “yes.”  Multiple times, onlookers report.

It was a promposal that Kerr had put a lot of time and effort into to make possible; he worked for hours with his speech therapist to be able to properly annunciate all the lyrics to “My Girl.”

The scene was meaningful not only to Kerr and Schiedler and friends.  Schiedler’s mother said that years ago, as she held her newborn baby Megan, one of her thoughts was about whether her daughter would ever go to prom.  Now, she says that not only has Megan been asked, she has been asked in a very special way.

You can read the story, and watch the full video of the promposal, on KGW here.

Monday, May 9, 2016

UK Store Implements “Quiet Hour” for shoppers with special needs

A superstore in Manchester, England has implemented a new system in the hopes of making shopping an easier experience for those with special needs.

The store, called Asda, opens one hour earlier than normal every Saturday and turns off store music, television displays, escalators, and the store’s announcement system for a “Quiet Hour.”  It’s an initiative which, store manager Simon Lea hopes, will help customers (particularly those who have autism) who experience distraction or overstimulation from the loud bustle that normally occurs in markets.

WATCH:  Asda manager Simon Lea on the quiet hour

Lea got the idea for the initiative after seeing a young boy who had autism struggle with the store’s busy environment.  Lea struggles from anxiety himself, and he’s said that for years he hated going to busy stores.  Even so, he said that six months ago he would have told shoppers to control their children.  Now, after speaking to people who have autism or other different abilities, he has instead been thinking about how to make his store a better place to shop.

And he’s not the only one to see the value of this idea.  The first quiet hour was only last week, on May 7th, but already eight other stores in Manchester have pledged to follow Asda’s example.

Asda has also been seeing positive responses to the quiet hour on Facebook, as well as from UK charity The National Autistic Society.  Mark Lever, CEO of the society, said that NAS surveyed more than 7,000 people who have autism and their families last year, and one of the most popular choices for things to become more accessible were shops.  Lever says that NAS hopes other supermarkets are inspired to follow the example that has been set by Asda.

You can learn more about Asda’s quiet hour from, Manchester Evening News, The Telegraph, the BBC, and The Guardian.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Caroline's Cart: Striving to make shopping more accessible for families with special needs

Alabama mother Drew Ann Long’s daughter Caroline has Rett Syndrome, a condition that can impair movement and that has made Caroline unable to walk.  For the first few years of Caroline’s life, Long would put her daughter in the seat of shopping carts during store trips, but she knew that it wouldn’t be long before Caroline outgrew the seat.  That’s when she came up with the idea for Caroline’s Cart.

Caroline’s Cart is designed to hold individuals with special needs who have gotten too big to sit in the child seat of a standard shopping cart.  As is shown in the video below, it functions similarly to a standard cart but has a larger and sturdier seat facing the caregiver pushing the cart.  The seat can hold up to 250 pounds.

Drew Ann Long saw the need for a cart like this when Caroline started having to use a wheelchair for shopping trips.  Long remembers a particularly hard shopping trip when she had to manage then-7-year-old Caroline, as well as her other, 9-year-old daughter, and her 2-year-old son.  She has called that trip a kind of “aha” moment for her, as she realized that there had to be a shopping cart for individuals who have special needs, and that if she needed it, other people did as well.

Now, national chain stores are seeing that need as well.  Target says the majority of its stores have at least one Caroline’s Cart as of March of this year, after one of their own employees who has a child with special needs suggested the cart.  The cart is becoming more widely available at other stores too, including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix, and Price Chopper.

Long says that she has kept Caroline updated and involved throughout the journey of making the cart, and that Caroline is aware of how much she has helped other people who have special needs.  Caroline has seen pictures, and heard emails that her mom has read to her.  Long says that while she isn’t sure how much Caroline understands, she does know that the first time they used the cart at their home Target was very special for Caroline.

You can learn more about Caroline’s Cart on its website, as well as from Today Parents, ABC, and Target’s statement about providing the carts.