Joni & Friends Disability Family Camp

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When you have a disabled child it's a lot like standing on the sidewalk outside a restaurant watching everyone else eat. For almost six years that was us, on the outside of life looking in, until Joni & Friends Camp. Then, for a whole week, we were the in crowd. We were no longer different. We were the norm. We were celebrated.
Each person with special needs was assigned their own special buddy, called an STM (Short Term Missionary), for the week. On the right are the three ladies who were Emma's and Hope's STMs.
<--(Can't imagine why Hope had two STMs).

Being spoiled and pampered for a week was amazing enough but what was really amazing was the people who worked there didn't just volunteer. They paid to go there and work for the entire week.
Ten Things I Learned from
Joni & Friends Camp

10. I learned that angels have names, names like Natalie, Emily, Emma, Brandon, Tyler, Rebekah, Hope, Michelle, Suzanna, Bryce, Neisha, Chrissy, Benjamin, Abby, Judy...

9. I saw a world where hate, greed, and envy don't exist.

8. I cried more tears of joy than I've ever done before in my life.

7. I got some great ideas about helping my own special needs kids.

6. I saw people dealing with the most crushing circumstances imaginable but who refuse to be crushed, timeless examples to me of courage, endurance, perseverance, and love.

5. For a whole week my child got to be herself without anyone giving me cold stares or cold advice.

4. For a whole week we weren't the outsiders looking in but the guest of honor.

3. Since my severely disabled daughter was born almost six years ago I've been kept behind a wall of isolation. That wall fell!

2. I got touched by an angel, and touched by an angel, and touched by an angel...

1. I saw people transformed by the love of my disabled daughter.
Emma loved square dancing-->

<--What a shock this was. Emma actually rode that horse. Until I saw another quadriplegic ride the horse I wouldn't have believed it could be done. Amazing things happen at this camp.
This was Hope during one of the pastor's sermons. The special needs kids were allowed to be themselves. Nobody stared. Nobody complained. Everybody went home blessed.

I first became aware of Joni & Friends over 30 years ago when Joni had a radio program. At the time I remember being so very impressed at how a young woman in the prime of her life could have an accident that left her permanently paralyzed from the neck down and be so confident and optimistic. Little did I know how she would become such a big part of our life when I had a daughter just like her.

As awesome as the camp experience was for us families with a disability, it was life changing for many of the STMs. Even though they have to pay to work hard for an entire week, many of them keep coming back year after year.