Monday May 22, 2017

More Than a Camp Counselor

By Kelly Delisio

On a sunny Monday morning in June of 2015, I was bubbling with excitement as it was my first day as a camp counselor for the YMCA Day Camp in my hometown of Lancaster, Ohio. However, my excitement quickly turned to concern as I had one of my first conversations with a camper. An 8-year-old girl whom I had only met that morning ran up to me with a big smile on her face and proclaimed, “I got to visit my daddy this weekend!” I had a smile that matched hers as I asked her where she went to visit her father. The girl’s facial expressions barely changed as she replied, “The cemetery. He overdosed on heroin”.

My smile disappeared as I watched the young girl run away to join her friends on the tennis court. I have spent countless hours since thinking about the encounter, and about how no 8-year-old girl should have to visit her father in a cemetery, let alone know what it means to overdose on heroin.

For the rest of the summer, and for the entirety of the summer after that, I continued to have heart-wrenching conversations with my campers like I did on my first day. I have had conversations with children as young as 5 years old about drugs, jail, and custody battles. I have watched as Child Protective Services have had to intervene when my campers do not receive the care that they should from their parents and guardians. I have had numerous children ask me to love them, to be their mother, and to come home with me because they cannot bare going back to their own homes at the end of the day.

While my experiences at the Day Camp have been challenging, I know that I have grown and become a stronger person because of them. I know that these children need me, and that it is my job to provide them with the love and care that they deserve. I am more than a camp counselor; I am a role model and a support system for children who do not have either. I would not be who I am without the camp, and I cannot wait to return for my third summer. 

Edited by Barb Miller

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