by Michelle Canon, Camp Hope Leader
I was at Magruder in late August, part of the staff at Camp Hope, which is celebrating its 25th year. I have been lucky enough to have been a part of this staff for most of its existence. Camp Hope is a 4-day long camp for adults with developmental disabilities. It was started at the request of our friend and former camper, Allen Crooch, who told his dad he wanted there to be a church camp for people like him. That task was taken up by Rev. Margaret Golden, our first dean, to great success.
Many of our campers have been coming to Camp Hope for decades. I look forward to seeing these campers who have become my friends over the years. While each year brings new surprises, there are a few special moments that happen at nearly every camp.
- A camper named Summer, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, makes sure to go swimming in the lake every year (even if it’s cold), because in the water she is physically free to move around independently. Expressing her joy at this, she laughs and laughs.
- Every year Dennis creates a “tail” made out of crepe paper streamers that he wears tucked in the back of his pants throughout camp. If you are lucky, he will offer you some materials to make your own tail to match his. His favorite joke (accompanied by much laughter) is to ask if you have noticed that his tail is growing.
- At our awards ceremony each year, our camper Tom never wants an award for himself, but he takes great delight in placing the ceremonial crown on the head of each recipient (everyone gets an award) when it’s their turn.
A growing number of our campers have passed away. We always take a moment to remember them at our Communion service, where we pass around our “Camp Hope Rock”, which everyone touches and thus it holds the fingerprints of every camper and staff that has ever attended our camp.
A friend and I joke regularly that Camp Hope is the best kept “secret” in the whole camping program. We affirm that it is the most fun camp we have ever attended and the joy we experience and share with our campers more than makes up for any work we put in. My experience of Camp Hope is that it is a place where, through my service and attempts to share God’s love with those around me, I experience and receive God’s presence and love returned many times over what I have given.
Michelle has degrees in Theological Studies and Elementary Education. She has a passion for making both the church and the camping experience accessible to people of all diversities. She is married to Tom Schaad and mother to Haven.