Recently, DASA athlete Christian Lewin was given the opportunity to gain valuable experience competing at the Paralympic Trials for Track & Field. Christian competed alongside some of the best racers in the country – a few of whom will be representing Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Rio. Below is Christian’s account of this great opportunity and experience…
“My experience at the 2016 Paralympic trials held in Charlotte N.C. was pretty awesome. I had spent the spring and summer preparing for various meets and was surprised and privileged to be invited to the trials competition. My family and I drove from St. Louis to Charlotte. We made several site seeing stops which helped keep my mind off of the upcoming meet. The importance of the trials hit home when we pulled up to the stadium for registration. There were festive Paralympic signs and banners everywhere. I got checked in, bought my Paralympic gear and headed to the track for warm ups and equipment check in. During warm ups my dad was with me on the track. At one point, Austin Pruitt, a fellow T34, walked over and visited with my dad and I. He gave us some advice and wished me luck. I had the opportunity to meet Austin Pruitt earlier this year at the Fast Cow meet in Indianapolis. He is incredibly polite and kind. After warm ups I checked my equipment into storage and headed for the hotel to rest up.
I competed in two races at trials. My first race was the 800m. In my heat were Austin Pruitt and Stephen Koziel. I was really excited to be on the track with these two Paralympic hopefuls. My goal was to try to keep up with these two! My second race was the 100m. Joining Austin, Stephen and myself in this race was T33 John Roberts. Having had one race under my belt I was fairly confident that I would do well. Austin and Stephen took off and John and I were neck and neck. It was very exciting.
Overall the experience was thrilling. I met some amazing athletes and coaches. I look forward to building relationships with my fellow athletes and share many more race experiences with them.”
Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Christian, and we could not be any prouder to be a part of your journey and goal to be a Paralympic star! Keep up the hard work!!
This is a Guest Blog Post by Katie Skinker. She has been a Track and Field Volunteer for 3 years and a camp counselor for Camp WeCanDu for 5 years.
While I always find camp to be an emotional week due to sleep deprivation and energetic kids, I knew I was in for a challenge this year. Mid-way through the week I had to say goodbye to my long time best friend, Mary Clare, better known to the campers as MC. Mary Clare is attending West Point Military Academy this fall and had to leave mid-week to get to summer Basic Training. I make it a point not to cry in front of other people but that Thursday afternoon as I watched her car disappear amongst the trees I lost it. I cried for the next hour pitifully. I anticipated the love and sympathy from the other counselors but was shocked by the response from the campers. My cabin was packed with boys ages nine to thirteen, not your typical mature, supportive crowd. However several of them stayed by my side making sure I was never alone. Campers from other groups made a point to check in on me throughout the evening, showering me with hugs and smiles. This night reminded me of how amazing DASA and its members truly are. A community bond exists unlike one I have ever been a part of. The kids amaze me every year growing in their compassion and maturity. I am so thankful to take part in Camp WeCanDu.
This is a Guest Blog Post by Lexi Stuart. This was her first year as a camp counselor for Camp WeCanDu.
This was my first summer at Camp WeCanDu & becoming part of this camp was one of the best decisions I’ve made! I loved how busy we stayed. We were always on the move, doing new activities, and trying new things. I made amazing bonds with both the campers & the counselors. I never expected that I would have such an amazing week! I loved archery, the obstacle course, the water slide, & just being with my awesome campers all the time. My favorite part was the glow in the dark bubble bus–it was so much fun to dance, sing, & play in the bubbles! One of my campers said to me, “I’ve had so many first times this week!,” and I truly believe that many campers can agree. Those campers made such a big impact on me. The week flew by. I am so happy & thankful to be a part of this awesome camp. I already can’t wait until Camp WeCanDu 2017!
This is a Guest Blog Post by Sydney Connor . This was her fifth year as a camp counselor for Camp WeCanDu.
I have been volunteering at camp WeCanDu for 5 years now. For two of those years I have been going to nursing school and now am a certified RN. Now I am one of the camp nurses at camp and am loving it. I have always dreamed of being a pediatric nurse and working with these kids at camp is so fun and gives me many hopes of one day being there. One of my favorite memories of camp is subs diving. I think it could be one of the more challenging activities for a lot of the kids because it really pushes them to face their fears and to know they can trust people. I love seeing the kids be so timid and then when they come above water and have a huge smile on their face cause they are so proud of themselves is extremely rewarding. I don’t think I will ever stop serving DASA and Camp WeCanDu. It truly is a life changing week.
The Disabled Athlete Sports Association will host its annual “Camp WeCanDu” at Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park in Wildwood, MO next week, June 19-24. Camp WeCanDu provides an opportunity for local youth with physical disabilities to fully participate in a week-long, traditional summer camp experience. Children living with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, visual impairments, and many other forms of physical disabilities will come together to create a fun and engaging social support system that encourages campers to discover their natural abilities through athletic and sensory activities while instilling family values and promoting independence and self-confidence that will later resonate through all aspects of life.
Since the summer of 2006, DASA has loaded an entire summer’s worth of fun into one fantastic week while adapting every game, sport, and activity to meet the functional abilities of each individual camper. This year’s kiddos will enjoy kayaking, archery, swimming, arts and crafts, bonfires, rock climbing, horseback riding, SCUBA diving, tree climbing, carnival night, a field trip to the movies, our legendary chocolate syrup slip-n-slide, and MUCH more. As fun as all of that might sound (it’s actually even a billion more times fun than it sounds), our primary focus is to create a fun, therapeutic environment where campers are encouraged to build strength and endurance while increasing independence and self-esteem.
Camp WeCanDu also provides an invaluable experience to our volunteer counselors. Local high school and college students from various different backgrounds help lead our campers through a week of life-changing adventures. A large majority of our counselors have been a part of Camp WeCanDu for multiple years now, and many intend to one day follow a career path into therapy or health and fitness fields – a few have even come back to join us as professionals! And over the past ten years at camp, we have been very fortunate to see many of our earliest campers grow into independent and confident young adults that are now leading new campers through the same amazing opportunity and experience they once enjoyed themselves.
After spending the first few summers in St. Peters and Arnold, Camp WeCanDu moved out to Babler State Park where it has now called the Outdoor Education Center home for the past seven years. The O.E.C. perfectly accommodates all of our activities and needs through the great accessibility and resources provided. Campers will enjoy spacious cabins, a great dining hall, a swimming pool and an air-conditioned recreation center to escape the heat, a fishing pond, an archery range, and plenty of space to run and play. Our camp staff includes our awesome nurse Karen who assists with any medical needs and routines our campers might have, and our wonderful camp director Kim who has helped organize every ounce of fun into Camp WeCanDu since the very beginning! Together with the DASA staff, board members, partnering clubs and organizations, our counselors and a handful of our amazing volunteers, our team is ready to take on all of the fun adventures headed our way during Camp WeCanDu 2016!
Supporting Camp WeCanDu
The Disabled Athlete Sports Association is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides quality therapeutic sport and fitness opportunities to children and adults with physical disabilities in the Greater St. Louis Area, and is primarily funded through grants, sponsorships, and donations. Every year, we receive generous support from many of our long time donors and contributors to help ensure that each Camp WeCanDu is better than the last. Funding facilities, activities, food, and other supplies can create substantial overhead costs, and considering that many families request scholarship assistance for their campers, we do our very best not to turn any kiddos away. If you are interested in helping support Camp WeCanDu this year or in the future, we graciously accept monetary and in-kind donations – please contact the DASA office at 636.477.0716 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp WeCanDu 2016 Sponsors
Thank you to the following organizations for helping make this year’s camp the best one yet!!
Hosted by the Disabled Athlete Sports Association, this multi-sport event offers competition in archery, swimming, and track and field to athletes with physical or visual disabilities from around the country.