I’ve said before that it is hard to plan too far in advance when it comes to my personal life, mainly because my plans change so suddenly and sometimes with little warning. That happened again this week, but in a great way.
About a week ago, my friend Katka Showers-Curtis sent me a message on Facebook. She had noticed I walk for Wounded Warrior Project using the Charity Miles app, and was wondering if I wanted to volunteer with Easter Seals WI for its upcoming camp for veterans and their families. My answer? Where do I sign up?
Unfortunately my life is a little busy, and I did not get a chance to submit an application until Thursday, May 2....and the camp is scheduled for Friday, May 3 - Sunday, May 5. Luckily they were able to get my application scheduled, run a background check and one of my references submitted a form online the same day. In the end they were able to squeeze me in as a volunteer.
I was talking with Patti from Easter Seals WI on Thursday, May 2 at 3 p.m. when I realize that the camp...is in Wisconsin Dells. I had originally thought it was in Madison and would be able to show up to help on Friday and Sunday, and help with Hammer with a Heart on Saturday. But when I realized the camp was in Wisconsin Dells, I would be needed all three days and would be housed on-site for the duration of the weekend...I had to scramble.
I called one of my Sun Prairie mothers to see if she would know of anyone who could take care of Artemis, and as it turns out, she was free. That was my big worry. A cat can pretty much take care of itself, but dogs need more TLC and exercise, not to mention nature calls.
With that huge burden lifted off my chest, I could focus on getting everything packed and ready - I had to be there in 24 hours.
Somehow - between the interviews and the martial arts and work - I managed to get everything done and packed in time to hit the road at 2:20 on Friday. I pulled into Camp Wawbeek about an hour later, and the first of the families began arriving around 5:30 p.m.
I was joined by five other girls - most of them from the University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse - who also signed up to volunteer. I have to admit, it feels a little weird being big sister - I am the only volunteer with a full-time job and who is not currently attending college. But half the time I feel older than my 26 years, so it isn’t exactly a new thing.
Anyway, we will actually be working with the children of the attending veterans. A couple of the other volunteers were really excited to want to work with the 8 months-6 year old kids, so I let them have that group. Another two wanted to work with the next age group, 7-12 year olds. A small part of me wanted to work with the younger children group, but honestly, I am pretty flexible. And truth be told, thanks to all the interviews I do with students at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School and Sun Prairie High School on the job, I actually have a pretty easy time connecting with the teen crowd. It comes pretty easy and I can laugh and joke with them, it is much easier to find that common ground.
During dinner on Friday we were able to meet with some of the attending families and strike up a conversation. Afterwards we all headed to the gymnasium, where we all gathered around in a circle. One person would then go in the middle and say “I like my neighbor who likes....” and however the person finished the sentence, anyone who also liked whatever it was would move to another spot in the circle. Between ice cream, animals, sunshine, running, swimming, dancing and a slew of others, I was constantly running to another spot.
Karaoke with Tony the Tiger and Superman do a stirring rendition of Livin' the Liva Loca while Spiderman watches.
Our first day finished with some karaoke (yours truly polished off the pipes and did a fairly decent job singing “Beauty and the Beast”). I must admit, I did love it when people would dress up for their vocal debut - a tiger teamed up with Superman to sing Ricky Martin’s “La Vida Loca.”
I am not quite sure what Saturday will bring since I will be with the older children. A part of me is kind of hoping they will want to try the high ropes course the camp offers - because then I would probably get a chance to do that too. The forecast right now is calling for rain though, and my guess is if that happens, our plans will change.
Whatever the day brings, I am just glad to be able to give back to some of Wisconsin’s veterans. They have sacrificed so much for us, it feels good to be able to give something back.