What I learned at camp

This is the first time I’ve been in the GTA for the last week of August since 2009. From 2010-2013, I spent the last week of August at Camp Oki.

Camp Oki transformed me. Deciding to spend a week of vacation volunteering here was one of the biggest batches of butterflies I’ve ever chosen.

For a girl who spends 40+ hours a week inside a cubicle, my week at camp was about as opposite from regular life as it gets.

Just an ordinary day at camp...

Just an ordinary day at camp…

For one week a year, I sang silly songs, made up dances, and starred in skits. I mediated 11 year-old drama and mastered the art of keeping pre-teen boy/girl friendships in the friend-zone.

I navigated difficult conversations about congenital heart disease and how that might impact future dreams and ambitions. I still remember when one of my campers answered “not yet” to another camper’s question “have you had a heart transplant?”

Because of Camp Oki, I know the difference between a pacemaker scar, an ICD scar, and an open-heart surgery scar. I know what the Fontan procedure is, and not to panic when a camper’s lips are bright blue – that happens when heart kids are cold.

Because of Camp Oki, I know six different friendship bracelet braids, I know how to properly belay a rock climber, and all the words (and moves) to Ice Cream and Cake, Pizza Man, and Squashed Banana. I know all the variations of Boom Chicka Boom, and I’m really good at keeping my elbows off the table.

Because of Camp Oki, I know I can be “on” from 7am to 11pm (and sometimes beyond those hours) for a week straight. I discovered how a supportive community can make people brave. And I know that we are all so much stronger than we think we are.

But this year, choosing butterflies meant not going to camp. It meant trusting my heart when I felt I was “done”, even though I didn’t really understand why. I had given all I could to Oki, and it was time for me to move on.

Camp Oki transformed me as much as it transformed each and every camper. I’m so grateful for that, and am holding on tight to it this week.

Because none of my meals this week involve chanting, screaming and dancing. And it feels a little weird.

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