Hey, Manitou! How do you feel? (We feel good.)
This past Friday, all of camp gathered for an extra special Fireside celebration. Storm clouds were rolling in, though, so we quickly relocated our ceremony to the theater. The oldest building in camp turned out to be the perfect venue for new perspectives, offered up by our youngest campers, and then by our terrific guest, Talli Osborne.
Osborne, born with a condition that shortened her legs and left her without arms, has been touring the country for years as a punk rock inspirational speaker. At just three and a half feet tall, with jet pink hair combed to the side and a pinging, cheerful voice, Osborne was a magnetic energy in our packed-out theater.
“People only see what I’m missing,” Osborne said. “But I like to focus on what I have. I feel incredibly fortunate. I have a great family and friends, an awesome job, and a man that loves me. How many people can say all of that?”
In addition to recounting a few of her own experiences at summer camp, Osborne shared stories of being bullied and harassed for her appearance, and of growing up adopted in a house with 19 other adopted siblings.
“Looking around the dinner table was the first time I learned how different everyone can be,” she told us. “And I learned to love those differences.”
Talli chose to stand in the sea of campers instead of on the stage. She was both physically and figuratively ‘on their level,’ and her stories were met with wide-eyed wonder and understanding. Our freshkid speakers, meanwhile, delivered speeches that related to Osborne’s own, emphasizing the need to focus on what they have (camp) rather than what they’re missing (their parents), and not to judge life experiences simply by how they appear.
Carter, Charlie and Hudson’s collective speech once again reminded us all how cool it is to pick your own schedule of activities at Manitou.
Carter: “To be successful at Camp Manitou, […] make sure you choose the activities you really want.”
Charlie: “You shouldn’t be afraid to meet new people and try new activities.”
Husdon: “I like woodworking, because I get to make cool things and take them home.”
Olivia, Charlotte and Adria all spoke about conquering their fears.
Olivia: “When I went to ropes, everything looked sooo high. […] But then the staff helped me and showed me what to do. And all of my fears went away.”
Charlotte: “When I went waterskiing, I was really nervous that I was going to fall. […] But it was really fun, and there was nothing to be afraid of.”
Adria: “At the swimming test, I thought it was going to be really hard. But when I got in the lake, it wasn’t that hard.”
The amazing thing about kids is that they use the simplest language to describe the deepest truths. Using ropes, waterski and swimming as individual examples, together they were saying that nothing is impossible. Even if it looks intimidating at first, guidance and trust goes a long way. Abby, Eden, Lilly and Isla, three girls from the Freshkid unit, also overcame their camp fears.
Abby: “I thought it would be impossible to do ropes, because I’m scared of heights. But I conquered my fear and climbed really high.”
Eden: “I didn’t know if I would be able to sleep away from my parents for more than one night. However, I made lots of friends and I’m having so much fun at camp!”
Lilly: “I thought it would be impossible to have as much fun as last year. However, it’s only the second week and I’ve already had so much fun. […] I’m going to love camp even more than last year.”
Isla: “I thought that Lilly would be my only friend, but over the next two weeks, I found lots of new friends.”
These girls talked not only about conquering fears, but also about reaping the rewards of their courage. For Abby, it was a new personal achievement. For Eden, an independence that will carry over into future years at camp. For Lilly, proof that camp can be better than best. And for Isla, it was discovering how she could make more than one lasting relationship at camp at a time.
Campers Stella and Layla told the story of Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost her arm to a shark.
“From that day on, she surfed,” the girls said. “In a big competition, she came in 5th place. She is now famous. Take Bethany as a role model.”
Along with Osborne, Hamilton’s story epitomizes our Fireside theme of redefining “possible.”
Freshkid Brandon spoke about another iconic hero, Neil Armstrong.
“Putting a man on the moon was once thought impossible,” he said. “But just like Neil Armstrong, we’re here to redefine possibility.” For Brandon, things as simple as seeing the camp gathered together or having respect for nature are forms of challenging what’s possible.
Finally, campers Alexa and Zoe shared some new things they learned this summer: waterski and sail, respectively.
“We just want to let you know that you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” the girls said. “We hope you are all having a great time, because we are having the best summer ever!!”
We hope you’re having the best summer ever, too, wherever you’re spending it. If you’re redefining possible in your own life in some way, let us know in the comments section! We’d love to hear your story.
Manny Moose and the entire Manitou Family