The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

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Healing Waters: The Case for Kids Outdoors

Camp for sick children
Yesterday I was told to remove one crutch and walk on my dang leg already. The doctor couldn't believe I hadn't removed both of them at this point; my reply was that no one told me I could do it. So, without further warning (or fanfare, which I was kinda expecting), I had to walk. 

It was nerve-wracking. I put all of my weight on my left leg; my right hand, feeling the loss of an ever-present crutch, reached over to join its compadre on the left crutch. I was scolded. "You're strong enough. Do it right." 

I didn't know how. After 3 months of weightlessness, trying to walk on my injured leg surely meant it was going to give out. I felt heat building up inside me as my physical therapist stared intently from 10 feet away. I leaned on my one crutch and looked at her with eyes begging for the second back. 

There was no relenting. 

My hands started to feel a little greasy as I gripped the rubber cross bar under my white knuckles. I inched the crutch forward to initiate momentum and found myself at the deciding moment — I either took the leap or chickened out. I took it. 

Leap? I misspoke. It was more of a hop, with my injured leg touching the ground for no more than a mere millisecond. The therapist wasn't impressed and frankly, I was embarrassed. My lack of confidence brought back a reminder that it was now 95 days since I last participated in any of the activities that bolstered my sense of self or took my mind off my condition. I softened my outlook as the therapist reminded me of my ability and I tried again. 

A little longer on the ground with the injured leg, a little more glide in the gait: Each step progressed in smoothness and in weight until I felt good enough to meet the gaze of the therapist who was now smiling at me. I continued on until I had walked the length of the hall — studiously, but with amazement — with only one crutch.

If I had tried this alone, it never would have happened. I needed to be reminded of my strength because I'd forgotten I had any left.

Camp for sick children
A camper at Brigadoon, catching some dinner ;)
Photo: A for Adventure
I'm one of the least in the medical world: an otherwise able-bodied adult with a capacity to overcome — given time. The journey still isn't easy in my mind. However, compared to those who find themselves in more serious positions, I had it easy, especially when considering kids who have less autonomy. After being around my nephews, being a godparent, and volunteering regularly with munchkins teaching them to climb and ski, I've become impressed with their ability to work through challenges. But they need encouragement: Just like I progressed from two crutches to one, kids will walk away victorious from something that seemed insurmountable just because someone stood by their side and told them they could. 

And their grins after such victories are ridiculously priceless. 

That's what kids need. Heck, we all deserve it, but those little people so often end up alone during this process because they haven't yet learned to communicate their feelings, their friends are too young to know how to reach out, and the programs supporting them are too far apart. Growing up is tough enough without adding in the confusion of medical conditions and parents who are hurting as well.

Camp for sick children
Photo: Curt Hamilton
Thank goodness for people like my buddy, Curtis Hamilton, who has given a good chunk of his life to helping others with his spirit of giving. I see the things he is doing (including his current plan to swim nearly 11 miles in an effort to raise money for a children's camp) and know that even these youngsters have a cheerleader. 

Brigadoon is the only camp in the Maritimes (a 51,126 square mile area of Canada) set up to fully provide little folks with major medical conditions the outdoor fun and camaraderie they desperately need. They'll also be the happy recipient of Curt's efforts. Here, campers will not only be distracted from their pain but, as we outdoors-people know, their time spent outside will increase mental health and self-esteem which, in turn, reflects positively onto their physical health. 

Man, what a gift for these kids!

Hi5 to Curt for laying aside his own pursuits to bring sunshine into the lives of those who can't serve themselves. These mini-campers may never know the effort he put in to train and raise awareness for them, but his reward is so much greater. 

From someone who understands the value of being wrapped up in encouragement and the outdoors when the road seems long and bleak, a huge thank you goes to you, Curt. Here's to you surpassing your goal and helping to bring healing to hundreds of lil munchkins.
. . .

It's a team effort: If you've experienced healing in the outdoors or have struggled through injury or medical conditions yourself, give up one morning's cup of Starbucks or that lunch you were gonna eat out and pitch in. I promise you're gonna feel pretty darn good. 

Camp for sick children
Photo: Chris Surette

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