A Letter to Counselors from a Parent

June 24, 2007

After yesterday’s closing program, my heart is so full of gratitude for each and every one of you and the commitment you made to make a difference.

As parents, it is our hope and dream that our children will be embraced, loved and accepted for who they are, and that they will experience the best of what life has to offer them. Being parents of young adults with Down syndrome it is our fear that they won’t. The reality of our world today is that society as a whole does not embrace or celebrate the gifts of individuals with disabilities nor are their contributions truly recognized.

Yesterday at the closing program as I watched the slide show and then listened as both campers and counselors spoke from the heart about their experiences at Camp Pals, I was moved to tears. I felt genuine and unconditional acceptance and love. The faces in the slide show glowed with pure joy. It was evident that all were embraced and their gifts were shared and celebrated.

As the counselors spoke about realizing what was “really important”, and “living in the moment”, and “just being”, it reminded me of one of my favorite passages of Henri Nouwen, a renowned 20th century theologian. Nouwen spent the latter part of his life living in community with individuals with disabilities. In speaking about his experience Nouwen said, “I see without hesitation here how much they give to those who are able to receive. They give generously and without hesitation. They give their hearts. What for us "normal” people often remains hidden behind rationalizations, preoccupations and fear is for the handicapped people the most available gift. They share their love, joy and gratitude and also their anxiety, sadness and disappointment with such directness that we are challenged to respond from our own hearts. They put us in touch with our often hidden gifts and weaknesses, and become our healers, without even knowing it.“

Thank you for being open to receive and for responding from your hearts.

One of the most significant outcomes of your experience at Camp Pals will be the far reaching and rippling effects you will have on others in their attitudes about individuals with disabilities. Katie’s younger brothers attended the closing program and what you all had to say helped them to see their sister in a new way, with a new appreciation. Thank you for that.

As you go out into the world as the future leaders, teachers, parents, neighbors, lawyers, doctors, legislators, pastors, rabbis and business owners you will be making decisions about how our world welcomes and supports people with disabilities. You will be the conduit of change and will make global differences, more than you ever thought a week at Camp Pals would do. Based on what I heard and saw yesterday, I have faith that each and every one of you will, how could you not, after having your hearts changed forever.

Best wishes to each of you as you travel the road of life.
God’s peace,
Cynthia McCurdy
Katie’s Mom
1st year camper

Katie and her friend Emily are pictured arriving at Camp for the first time.