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16 Southern Jewish Life • July 2018

Draining but fulfilling: Staffing Dream Street by Jake Davidson It is 7 a.m., and I am completely drained to the point that my first thought is coffee, but each time I turn over the edge of my top bunk to look at my camper below, he is sitting right up and ready to go. I then have to change a diaper, dress him, and help him brush his teeth. I pack my bag with his necessities for the day before I can even address myself. While he is flying out the door in arm crutches and the biggest smile on his face, I am just trying to manage my bed head and get my act together before some girl sees me. This winter, I applied to volunteer my time during the last week of May at Dream Street, a summer camp for children with disabilities. Since 1975, Dream Street has been held at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica. I had been going to Jacobs Camp as a camper for nine years, so I had always known about Dream Street. The staff converts the HSJ campus as their own for the week. Last year, a few of my friends from camp had participated as Dream Street counselors, and all of them had encouraged me to come the next year. I happily agreed to sign up. I was accepted in March and felt honored that a committee believed my 17-year-old self would be a good fit to be a counselor to a child with Spina Bifida. Orientation took two days, going over everything from Ace procedures and enema procedures, to changing a diaper correctly. While some of the children could do some things themselves, there were also some children that were completely dependent, so each one of the staff members needed to be ready for anything. The second day, we received our own camper’s application, detailing each camper’s limitations. Could they shower on their own? Can they feed themselves? Can they move from place to place easily? On my first day, I learned that “my kid” loves to fish. Every time we had the choice to kayak, cook, or even experiment with mad science, my kid always chose fishing, rain or shine. One day down by the lake, he could not get anything to bite. Cast after cast, worm after worm with no payout in any shape or form, he eventually snagged a dead tree limb. After a while, I realized that he needed a fish soon because this day was not getting any shorter. I got the attention of one of Dream Street’s occupational therapists there and explained the issue. The OT told my camper that he was going to put on a magic worm that was sure to catch a fish. While I distracted my camper, the OT took a live fish from the bucket and put my camp-

er’s hook through it. We pointed out some cool geese in the water while we tossed the “magic worm” into the lake. Once my camper’s attention returned to his line, he had “caught” a fish. He was bragging to everyone about how he caught his fish. I was just happy that he was happy. I had been told by some of the more experienced counselors that my camper was probably the best type of kid to have for a first-time counselor. Though my little guy had Spina Bifida, he was semi-dependent as he was able to get around in his arm crutches without my help and did not need me to help push him in his wheelchair, except on hills. He could pull up his pants, get his shirt on and brush his teeth. He was very vocal and could feed himself. He was a bit picky with food, but a PB&J always put a smile on his face, and he chowed down. He was a great camper, and I gained a lot of understanding and responsibility from my time at Dream Street. While I helped him, he helped me learn much about myself as a person as well. For five days straight, I was consumed with a continuous morning routine. I had been told that this week would be the most mentally, physically and emotionally draining experience. Believe me, it lived up to the hype. The first two days were restless, but I could easily keep up with my energetic child. By day three, however, the mere six hours of sleep and an often times 18-hour day began to take its toll. Of course, I was completely engaged with my child all the time, but the second that I put him to bed, the wear down would hit me like a freight train. It was all worth it, though. The smile that he had every morning and throughout the day was worth every drop of coffee I consumed. Dream Street has been the most fulfilling experience of my young life, and I welcome the challenge of participating again. Jake Davidson is a rising senior at Lamar School in Meridian.

SJL New Orleans, July 2018  

July 2018 New Orleans edition of Southern Jewish Life, the official Jewish news magazine of the Greater New Orleans Jewish community.

SJL New Orleans, July 2018  

July 2018 New Orleans edition of Southern Jewish Life, the official Jewish news magazine of the Greater New Orleans Jewish community.

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