On my first evening, I got the opportunity to go around and visit with the different evening activities, which allows the participants to choose what they do. There was fishing, boating, kayaking, basketball, roller blading, soccer, and exert-games. Yes, exert-games, this is a term used for video games that are based around fitness and movement. That is right, video games that involve exercise and movement.
While going around and visiting the different areas, I met a tremendous number of people. I met Mike Fortner, father of thirteen-year-old Jake Fortner. Jake is a youth with retinopathy of prematurity, and he is a participant at the camp. Jake’s father is actually volunteering and assisting with the camp. He became involved through being inspired by his son. Jake had heard a message from Dr. Lieberman to make things happen and help create a difference. Jake took it upon himself to come up with a fundraiser to help raise money for Camp Abilities. He started a can drive, he set up an account at a local can recycler and began collecting. He has raised around $800 for the camp through his “Cans for Camp Abilities” fundraiser. I think this gives you an idea of the motivation and drive the camp instills. At the camp, you see kids push their limits, past where they ever thought they would reach.
You will see this in all of the main areas: swimming, gymnastics, tandem bicycling, judo, goalball, beep baseball, and track & field, to name a few. All of these sports are adapted or Paralympic sports. The participants get to compete and push each other to improve. The team atmosphere is built among the athletes. That is exactly what they are, they are all athletes. They may compete in a different manner, but they are all competing.
During swimming, I heard another visitor explain the looks on the faces of a few of the teens after completing a lap in the pool. They were filled with joy, as these two athletes had not been in a pool prior. This was their first time, as they were learning to swim, move, and glide through the water. Their faces were filled with joy, as they completed something they didn’t believe was possible. That is actually one of their messages, to believe in you. The athletes’ skill levels all vary, as some athletes may complete many laps in the pool or on the track or bicycle course.