Where are they now?

Chris ClappFrom time to time, we feature former campers and their stories. Chris Clapp was a camper for 9 years at Camp Winston. Diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, Learning Disabilities, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety, Chris, now 23 has gone on to a successful career in Correctional Services with plans to attend Law School in the fall of 2008. Here are Chris’s reflections about Camp Winston:

Some people may ask what a place like Camp Winston can do for a child with complex neurological disorders. Well here’s the answer they have been waiting for. Camp Winston is a place much like heaven (to me anyways) there are no words worthy enough in the dictionary to describe the feelings of love, acceptance and accomplishment that is not only felt by campers but the staff as well.

Once upon a time I was a young camper full of anxiety. I was extremely ticky, obsessive and frequently new tasks were quite scary for me. I can recall a particular event involving a young Chris Clapp who was so terrified to get on the back of a horse that he stated “I’m not getting on that horse, I fell off one before and got 12 ****ing concussions”. However an intelligent women and the mother of Camp Winston itself (Denise Fruchter) saw past all that, even past what young Chris Clapp couldn’t see. There was a young boy who deep down wanted to have fun but needed a nudge in the right direction. So with her help and the help of several other staff this young man got up on the horse and rode it (with a little assistance) but still accomplished what he though to be impossible. Years later I found out that when I approached Denise for a second ride she definitely made it happen by moving me to the front of the line.

This is just one of many examples of what camp did for me. It gave me the confidence to realize/use my own abilities and to prove to myself that I CAN DO IT! To quote Denise “This is not a sitting camp, this is a doing camp”. This concept was foreign to me since every other summer camp I attended allowed me to give up on myself and not face my own neurological “stuckness”. I would often be left on the sidelines because I had nobody to explain the rules of games calmly or to help me challenge myself so that I could feel a sense of pride/accomplishment. I wonder how many people know about my first inning in baseball when Denise moved my resistant body past all three bases and even made it back to home base. I still clearly remember the shock of completing this impossible task.

As the years went by, I became more and more confident in my own abilities and my frequent response of “no’s” started turning into “maybe’s” and even a few “yes’s”. With loving one-on-one support from Camp Winston staff, working in unison with my amazing family, I have succeeded in every task I have ever put my mind to. Camp Winston is not just one of the reasons I am who I am, every staff member I have ever come into contact with has had some positive impact on my life. I can honestly and whole heartily say that Camp Winston is quite possibly the defining factor that saved my life. Coming from a world of little understanding (from peers, teachers, etc.) it was a place that I could actually “tic” and no one even batted an eye lid. I felt at peace and at the same time built self-esteem. I know now without a doubt what my abilities/talents are.

Camp Winston inspired me to reach out and to help others. I currently hold a diploma from Confederation College from the Police Foundations program. I am completing my last year of the Social Worker program and in September of 2008 I will be enrolling in Lakehead University for the new Law program. I currently work at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre as a Corrections Officer. I have worked at Monteith Correctional Complex (Outside of Timmins) which has both maximum and medium security sections and here in Thunder Bay at the Correctional Centre, at the District Jail and at the Young Offenders unit. Many times in my day I play a dual role; half officer half social worker. I have taken on case management, discharge planning, I sit as a union steward and take an active role in offender programming.

Camp taught me one of the greatest lessons, find the “why”. Example, why doesn’t Chris want to play baseball? Is he lazy? Is he just a bad boy or maybe the reason “why” he isn’t participating is because he needs a hand to find the abilities in himself that we already know exist. It has been an honor and a privilege to come to know so many amazing people through Camp Winston. I have life long friends from Camp Winston and they are family to me. I wanted to say a very heart felt thank you to everyone affiliated with Camp Winston. You are all so many of my reasons for what I say and do. You truly saved my life.

There is a saying “a person who saves another, saves the world entire”. Who knows what other young women and men can accomplish by being given a chance. You are not only investing in a child’s future but also the futures of others which that child will touch in their lifetime.

Thank you Camp Winston!