Today was a very interesting and special day for me. I was privileged to attend the opening of Camp Independence at YMCA Camp Duncan -- a youth campground located in Ingleside, Illinois. I was invited because I happen to give pitching lessons to the daughter of one of the driving forces behind the camp -- Kim Kiser, Sr. Vice President of Camping for the YMCA.
When those of us in the softball world think of "camp," we tend to think "opportunity to show my daughter's softball skills so some college coach will pay for her education." This was a camp of a different type. It is designed to help kids from seven to 18 who have spina bifida learn to live on their own instead of depending on their parents.
While I was there I heard an interesting story from Dr. Dave McClone, the founder of the camp and a doctor at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He said that back in the 1950s and before, no one thought much about what to do with kids who had spina bifida because the mortality rate was 95%. In the last 50 years, that figure has reversed, and now 95% of the kids born with it survive into young adulthood and beyond. In fact, they're not sure of the length of life for those patients because this is the first generation they can really track it on, but the expectation is they will live a regular life span.
That created a new issue, though. spina bifida can be pretty debilitating, and so it makes it difficult to live on one's own. Things we take for granted -- going to the bathroom, making dinner, doing laundry and other mundane tasks -- have to be learned. With many of this generation's spina bifida patients' parents now aging, the kids have to start learning these skills so they can function on their own and contribute to their full potential in society.
That's what Camp Independence is about. It will be taking in kids to live and work around the camp with the goal of teaching them, as the name implies, independence. It's a very worthy endeavor that benefits not just the kids but all of us. From a selfish point of view (as was also pointed out), imagine these kids out there working and paying taxes instead of having tax funding diverted to them.
I know Kim comes on the blog now and then so hopefully she'll see this and let us all know what we can do to help. The building that was dedicated today was just phase one. There are plans for a second building in phase two, and if I know Kim that's not all.
You'll pay $100, $150, $200 or more to have your daughter attend a camp or a clinic just to spend five minutes with an Olympic player or a top-level coach. Consider taking a little of that and applying it so a young person just like your daughter can learn to fix her own dinner. And regardless of which side of that divide you're on, hug your kids tonight!