Beyond the Classroom: Student Therapists Learn by Serving

Posted on: Wednesday September 13, 2017

By: Amber Estelle

  Students can learn about physical, occupational, and speech therapy in the classroom. Rachel Tucker and Adam Manahan wanted to do more than learn from books and lectures. As student therapists, they were looking for a more immersive learning experience, and found ways to put their knowledge into practice while serving with Victory Lane Camp this summer. Rachel began her involvement with Victory Lane Camp as a volunteer with her family. During this experience, she met Victory Kid Luke Miller. “My favorite connection has to be with Luke Miller,” she expressed. “My first camp we made a bond, and I love seeing his smile and hearing his laughter and happiness every second.” This year, Rachel had the opportunity to experience camp for the first time as a student therapist. “I was excited to finally become a graduate student in occupational therapy and actually be able to work alongside therapists and kids with special needs,” shared Rachel. Through her time at camp, she has been able to make connections with other therapists as well as with Serving and Victory Families. She also made a connection with Micah, a Victory Kid. She watched him grow and try new things at Bradford Woods. “This past summer at Bradford Woods, my favorite experience was working with Micah through all of the activities we did together,” she shared. “I loved getting him to climb the cargo nets with me as well as completing all the games during the VLC Olympics.” Adam’s connection with Victory Lane Camp began through his work with 321Go Kids Rehab. Adam spent the summer as a student therapist with 321Go Kids Rehab as part of his clinical while he is attaining his masters in occupational therapy. Serving at camp provided a unique setting for Adam to apply his therapy skills. Adam particularly enjoyed helping with the Upchurch family and continuing his work with Caden. He assisted with several daily activities and nightly routines, but what stood out to him most was seeing first-hand the trials that Victory Families face every day. He explained, “It gave me a better understanding of the family unit, how their routines affect therapy, and how completing therapy can be addressed in a more holistic manner to adapt to the family’s life.” Both Adam and Rachel value their experience at camp. Adam expressed, “Throughout camp, different situations would arise where a child or family was having a difficult time and a creative solution was needed to address this. The therapy team I was privileged to work with displayed incredible professionalism and creativity when thinking of adaptive ways to help make camp the best experience for both Serving and Victory Families. Being able to be a part of this process and witness/learn from those who have more experience in both therapy and VLC made a lasting impression on me as a student wanting to soak in as much as I could.” Rachel would love to see Victory Lane Camp take place in her home state of New Jersey in the future. Rachel expressed her hope further, “I personally know so many people with special needs, and I would love to give them the chance to experience it without having to travel far from home.” More than professional experience, these student therapists are thankful for the growth seen in Victory Kids and families as well as the connections made with the VLC community. Adam shared, “I was able to see so many victories throughout both camps, but the best victory of them all was the community that was created between Victory and Serving Families. A lot of Victory Families have never had this opportunity to take the family camping or out for longer than an afternoon due to fatigue or difficulty with all the circumstances. By having a whole community work together, some Victory Families were able to breathe for the first time knowing everybody was there to serve.”

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Playing Power Rangers and Forming Friendships

Posted on: Friday August 25, 2017

By: Amber Estelle

Collin Wente loves Power Rangers. So after the Victory Lane Camp crew welcomed his family to Cornerstone Campground, Konrad Clemens engaged Collin in a conversation about Power Rangers. Konrad was serving at VLC along with the rest of the Clemens family. Questions and conversation quickly evolved into a group of kids playing Power Rangers together. It was a moment that was precious to Collin’s mom, Breezy, who often sees her son struggle with social situations due to his autism. Having been to a camp in Kentucky a few summers ago, the Wentes were glad to find a closer location to make connections. They heard about what Victory Lane Camp had to offer them from their friends, the Careys, who attended camp last summer. Breezy was intrigued by the ongoing community aspect of VLC. “The thing that really got me was the fact that VLC continues relationship afterwards. There are activities throughout the year. That’s what grabbed me,” she shared. It didn’t take long for the Wentes to find connection and community. It was also the first camp experience for their serving family, the Clemens. “I loved being associated with a family, having a specific role, finding fellowship and building community,” expressed Kristina Clemens. Kristina and Scott Clemens found Victory Lane Camp as a great opportunity for their whole family to get involved. They were looking for a way for their kids to practice serving others and hoped to enlarge their boundaries while building relationships with children who have disabilities. New relationships started forming at camp between the Clemens kids— Konrad, Reagan, and Makenzie—and the Wente kids, Dylan and Collin. This friendship continued to develop over the next few days at camp. The families both saw and appreciated how much the kids were enjoying their time together. Breezy appreciated “seeing Collin be able to connect with Konrad and not having to be with him all of the time. It was really neat to see him being able to do stuff with him and connect and have fun.” Breezy shared that both of her sons tend to be “homebodies.” But she watched them step out of their shells and have fun at camp. “In every day, you get stuck in a whirlwind and don’t realize how much they can do on their own, and they don’t even realize it. When you’re put in that type of situation, you are opened up to what could be if you pushed a little more and allowed them to be more independent and responsible for themselves. One thing I noticed with Collin is that he really is socially becoming so much more open.” Both Dylan and Collin expressed that they loved camp and had a good time. Collin especially, “loved the pool and had fun with Konrad,” he said. Throughout their time at camp, both families moved past comfort zones, formed new friendships, and grew in positive experiences... and it all started with a group of Power Rangers.

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‘Rockstar’ Teens Shine and Serve at Camp

Posted on: Monday August 14, 2017

By: Christy Ragle

Brooklyn Bowen likes helping people, so when her church youth group planned a missions trip to Victory Lane Camp, she jumped at the opportunity. She’s already hoping to return to serve at a future camp. Brooklyn was one of 24 Teens In Mission (TIMS) serving at Victory Lane Camp during this year’s summer camp sessions. Each Victory Family had at least one assigned TIM who connected with the family and helped in many ways. “Everyone serving at camp thought the TIMs were rockstars,” noted Sierra Anderson, who coordinated the TIMs program as part of an internship with VLC. “Both the Serving Families and Victory Families told me that the TIMs were a huge help, and everyone was proud of them.” This year’s crew of TIMS included a church youth group and teens who were members of a Serving Family or Victory Family. The focus this year was to develop opportunities for teens to serve actively as leaders during camp. “Serving as a TIM requires dedication and boldness, but it is rewarding to learn more about Victory Families and to know that you enabled them to have fun in a new way,” Sierra shared. Several of the TIMs had prior experience working with people who have disabilities. Ethin Thacker’s little sister has autism, and he also helps coach a special needs basketball team. Savannah Webber was inspired to serve by her mom, whose job involves people who have disabilities. Gage Caruthers attended camp as part of a Victory Family, but served another family as a TIM. “It’s nice that the families all come together and make a community,” said Gage. “I’m thinking about a career in therapy, and the insight from therapists is helpful.” Audrey Upchurch also experienced camp first as part of a Victory Family. This year, she served as a TIM for Rebecca and her family. “Serving as a TIM has impacted me by making me have a better attitude about a lot of things,” she expressed. “It has also made me have a better look at what kids and families go through every day.” Jadyn Youngquist was instrumental in launching the TIMs program, and she watched the idea really come into fruition during this camp season. Jadyn is currently in the eighth grade and experienced a very special time at camp this year. “When I first moved here I met Emma, who has cerebral palsy, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Jadyn described. “I’ve been trying to get her family to come to camp, and this year she came!” Jadyn served as Emma’s TIM, along with two other TIMS. Jadyn’s favorite moment was watching Emma arrive at camp and seeing the Victory Lane Camp community welcoming her and her family. “It was cool to see all these people get to know her and love her the way I do, the way her family does,” she shared. Jadyn hopes to see the TIMs program continue to expand. She enjoys seeing the connections that teens make with Victory kids. “It’s important that we educate teens about children who have special needs and help teens come to the realization that these kids deserve all the love we can give.”

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Victory Family Experiences New Friends and New Adventures at Camp

Posted on: Thursday July 27, 2017

By: Amber Estelle

  Taby Wise was terrified of the zipline at Bradford Woods this summer, but her son AJ was determined to try it. Fearlessly, AJ insisted that his family promise to take turns and all experience the zipline. As he was coming to the close of his adventure, AJ declared that it was “awesome” and quickly asked to go again. The Wise family has been a part of the VLC community for the last couple of years. This was their second time attending camp. “We were looking forward to camp again. AJ loves it because everyone includes him. They adapt the games so he can fit in. They make you feel really comfortable and welcome,” shared Taby. Even though AJ had been to camp before, he found new ways to move out of his comfort zone and really connect at camp. Taby explained, “This year, he was socializing. Some of the kids came to our cabin and played cards. It’s amazing to see him build relationships with other kids.” One of those relationships was with his friend, Simon. AJ said “I really liked hanging out with Simon and doing the zipline. That made me feel happy.” Watching her son stretch his limits and grow in community reminded Taby of how much VLC means to them. “You don’t always get the support you need for your family. It’s really nice to know that they’re there for you, and they’ll pray for you. It’s not just a camp to us, it’s family.”

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