11/13/10 – Update! The members of Team Camp GRACE together raised $32,000!! Thank you so much to everyone who donated! 2011 will be an awesome year for these amazing kids!
This is the first time I’ve done this on our blog, but I want to do something, shall we say, ‘colorful’ to help autistic children in my city. We’ve got a week to do it in, and I can’t do it without you.
Let me explain. This past summer was the J-Man’s first camp experience at Camp G.R.A.C.E. (Growth, Recognition, Achievement, Character, Encouragement), a camp for autistic children at our local YMCA. Neither we nor our J-Man knew what to expect. He and I went together to the front door both nervous, but they greeted him like an old, dear friend. They went out of their way to make him feel comfortable and calm, no easy feat given how anxious and fearful he can be of new situations. They showed him respect and patience and helped him work through that uncertainty for as long as it took.
Going to camp is a rite of passage for so many children. Camp G.R.A.C.E. gives our children with special needs an opportunity to build social skills and confidence and have many of the same camp experiences other children do, an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have if the YMCA and those amazing counselors weren’t there.
I knew the J-Man had found a new home there the first morning of the second week when he walked right in on his own after having spent the first week working up the courage to do so. He came home that afternoon with the Camper of the Day award for having such an awesome day at camp. He may be unable to tell us with words how he feels, but he still finds ways to share that with us.
On the final day of camp, Mary and I came to the awards day. Each group at Camp G.R.A.C.E. stood up, and the counselors for that group gave a special award to each camper. They did that day what the best people who work with our kids do – they see the amazing gifts our kids have, and they celebrate them. They honored our J-Man with the Pint-Size Picasso Award for exemplary artistic skills during camp, particularly his lavish use of the color orange. These are folks who get it.
Oh, and remember the color orange. You’ll see why in a minute.
But providing the supports and staff necessary for the camp costs money. Camp G.R.A.C.E. provides extra assistance and accommodations to our children because of their needs, and even after so many generously volunteer their time and resources, it takes funding to create and staff a camp with highly-trained counselors to address these needs. Camp G.R.A.C.E. does everything possible to keep costs down for families. From there, they rely on generous donors like you.
As part of the YMCA’s We Build People campaign, Camp G.R.A.C.E. needs to raise $18,000 to meet its goal for 2011. Your support toward that goal will mean that 37 autistic children and their families will be able to afford a camp experience next summer like our J-Man had. 100% of your donation goes directly to their youth programs and provides discounts and scholarships for autistic children to come to camp.
For many of these families, medical and therapy bills leave little, if any, money available to go toward positive experiences like Camp G.R.A.C.E. Without these scholarships, they simply can’t afford for their children to go. And this is heartbreaking.
I know right now that money is tight for everyone, but I really believe in Camp G.R.A.C.E. And I’ll do what it takes for the camp to reach its fundraising goal. My goal is to raise $2,500, and I have one week to do it in.
I’m prepared to do something I’ve never done before to get your support for Camp G.R.A.C.E., and I’ll do it in public in front of a few thousand people.
On November 14, right after the YMCA’s We Build People campaign ends, is the 27th Annual Old Reliable Run in my city, one of the oldest and most popular 10K road races in the country. This year it’s also the Southern Regional 10K Championship, which means there will be a lot of people there.
If you help me reach my fundraising goal of $2,500, in honor of the J-Man’s Pint-Size Picasso award, I will dye my hair bright orange, get an orange running outfit, and run the 10K in front of God and my city and anyone else. I’ve never done anything like that before, but I’ll do it for something, and someone, I believe in.
And yes, there will be pictures.
Now it’s your turn. I’m asking for your help in providing these amazing children with a camp experience they’ll enjoy and remember with kind and skilled counselors who value and love them, who accept and celebrate them. Every dollar makes a difference!
Time is short, and my hair is only getting grayer. Please go here for the link to make your online donation via the YMCA and to read a couple of instructions on how to get your donation credited properly. November 10th is coming fast, so please donate soon!
Yours in celebrating awesome kids everywhere,
P.S. Don’t forget to e-mail me and let me know how much you donated so I can record your donation toward the goal of $2,500! If you would rather donate by check, send me a message and I’ll give you instructions.
(P.S.)^2 – Running is also a very important part of this story. After you donate, I invite you to read my post “Today I Was Strong Enough” about the recent Autism Run 5K.