The last 6+ years have literally flown by and when looking back to the start of my travels it is hard to believe it has really been this long! Time really does fly by. Going back to 2008 I was in the middle of my Gap Year and I had spent about 6 months working on a checkout in the local supermarket saving money to go do “something” adventurous in my Gap Year.
I applied relatively late in the season (around the end of February) and had my interview and did the DBS which all went pretty smoothly really. But looking back only now can I appreciate how weak my application was! I had very little experience working with children and the only coaching experience I had was in football where I did have my FA Level 1 (probably saved my application). Looking back now as an interviewer I can kind of appreciate how lucky I was, because in reality it was a weak application. But the one thing I did do was keep my options open and said yes to special needs, and at the end of April I managed to get placed and within two weeks I was jetting off to America for my first ever summer camp experience at Camp Dogwood in North Carolina.
When I got to the airport I had pre arranged to meet up with two other counsellors, one being Flea who was a returner of around 3 years who became a very close friend of mine over the next few years, and then Lisa who would go on to become the complete opposite. When on the flight I also happened to be sitting next to another lad called Alex who after about 4 minutes of awkward discussion finally worked out that we were going to the same camp!! We flew to Charlotte NC via Washington Dulles where we missed our connector because of immigration – which was crazy because there was actually a 5th person in our group, Bobbie, on the same flight who actually made the flight.. but her bag didn’t! ha And Bobbie… again became another close friend that I still stay in touch with – went to her wedding only two years ago or so!
So we finally made it! We were met at baggage claim by our director Sandy Lazenby and then drove to camp. The next day I finally met everyone else! There was Myself, Alex, Flea, Lisa and Bobbie from the plane and then Dan and Betsy who were returners and then Kelly, Lacey, Edith, Jennifer, Lara and Nick (the same one from my last Throwback Thursday blog). We also had a temporary Nurse Vivian who was then replaced by Vicki after the first week and we were joined by Gerard (my room mate), Ed and another Kellie from Australia a couple weeks into the summer. Generally speaking we were a great team and there was minimal fallouts through the summer – and I think being my first summer I will always remember and stay in touch with a lot of these people!!
But back to the camp! Camp Dogwood was a camp run by the North Carolina Lions Foundation who are a division of Lions International who raise money and run programs primarily for the bind. We had 10 sessions + a weeks training so the pay package was pretty god for a first year – I made around $1400 total I think. During the first week I was made Waterfront Director which meant that I spent the majority of my summer on the Lake looking after the boats, doing boat trips, fixing fishing rods and taking people water skiing (yes blind people can water ski) – in fact I had one couple who would go knee boarding everyday, both were totally blind and both of them were absolutely amazing at it – would do flips and tricks all the time ha My partner in this role was Lisa who unfortunately for one reason or another only lasted in the role for 6 weeks (I won’t go into details) and was replaced with Flea which was brilliant as she was one of my best friends on camp and knew what the hell she was doing.
Now I know there is a bit of code where what happens at camp stays at camp…, which is why numerous other stories will not appear. But I really can’t help myself with this one because it is such a classic story, and one me and Nick will tell at pretty much every party we go to! And this is regarding my room mate Gerard and his masturbating ways! (I’m so sorry mate if your reading this but I have to!) Basically Gerard, who was from South Africa, was a little naïve and inexperienced compared to the rest of us, and one day us lads (we had separate accommodation away from the girls) were casually talking away about masturbating and who had done it on camp yet and how awkward it was yadeyadyada…. And from the conversation we gathered this was something Gerard had never really done before considering all the questions he would ask. However the next morning I woke up and turned over and there was Gerard sticking a sock right in face my face greeting me with – “look I did it” – I will never ever ever forget this moment. Naturally I screamed a little bit and jumped out of my skin before calmly telling him – “that’s not what we do” – it’s a private thing. But I think he took to it a little too well – we used to have half hour breaks after afternoon activity from 5 to 5:30 and if I didn’t make the shower first I generally didn’t get a shower if you know what I mean. But one day I think Gerard went a little too far with it all – I believe it was one Friday afternoon and everyone was getting ready for the presentation evening – and Gerard had been in the shower for an extraordinarily long time, to the point he was going to be late for work, so I had to knock on the door and hurry him up. In Hindsight this was a mistake because in response he opened the door and said “its broken do you want to see” and before I had a chance to say no I got a the full show of his bleeding penis…. Though I wasn’t the only one to suffer, he went on to show a least half a dozen others bless him.
Anywho moral of the story – you never know what you are going to see on camp!!!!!