Jason’s transformative summer camp experience
Summer is here. What do you find yourself doing? Keeping cool in the shadow of a patio umbrella? Listening to the splashing of kids playing at the lake? Maybe you’re remembering back to your own carefree summer days as a kid, when about now you’d be packing up to go off to summer camp. Now those are good memories.
We know the impact of a summer camp experience is lifelong. That’s why we are so honoured to offer a week-long experience for people with diverse abilities at the beautiful Stillwood Camp near Cultus Lake.
Last year, 18 campers were dropped off for a week of fun and fellowship. For many, they come every year and they look forward to reuniting with the friends, staff and volunteers that they’ve come to know and love. For families too, the week of respite is a blessing, and know their loved one is safe and having the time of their life trying new activities, learning new skills, making the closest of friendships, and deepening their relationship with our Saviour, Jesus.
We did something new at camp last year – we held a ‘cafe night’. The common room was set up and decorated just like a real café and with an open mic. One by one, campers stepped up to the mic and performed for their friends - a song, a dance, a story, or whatever their gift.
When it was Jason’s turn, he got up and the room went silent. With complete spontaneity, he spoke a poem from his heart about what being at camp meant to him, how much joy it brought into his life, enriching him with new friendships and how thankful he was to the staff for making it such a great experience. Hearing Jason’s words was so moving – when he was done there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
We know this response to camp is common, maybe not always verbalized as eloquently as Jason’s open mic delivery, but certainly expressed. One mom told us, “My son talks about camp all year long to everyone he meets, and how excited he gets when it is almost time to go again.”
Camp Bethesda is funded wholly by the generosity of donors. As with many of our other services that rely on donor funding, camp has immediate and life-long impacts on the people we serve and their families.
Donate today and experience the joy knowing your gift so powerfully transforms lives like Jason’s.
My Life at 34 by Terry Slama, South Richmond Home
My name is Terry. I am thirty-four years old and ready to share my story to help others come out of the shadows. I recently moved to Bethesda’s South Richmond home from Kelowna. Making the move was not easy for me. I was scared, but I know big moves like this are scary for most people. The staff who work with me at my home are very nice and they make me laugh. Bethesda hires some of the best people. They ask me questions and they also listen to my ideas on how to make my care better. But in reality, no home is perfect, so what I mean to say is, I am happy. I feel at home here at South Richmond and I have my own space. My name is even on the answering machine message!
I have Cerebral Palsy from a brain injury I got when I was born. Growing up, my Mother and Father cared for me at home. I’ve had doctors, nurses and numerous therapists helping me as well. But now I’m living on my own as an adult in the South Richmond home. I am living my life every day and am grateful to God for it. I think people should be grateful to God.
I got inspired to come forward with my story after I saw the video of Chantal Huinink speaking to Self-Advocates at Bethesda. Like me, Chantal has Cerebral Palsy. She was honest as she talked about what it was like for her growing up and that she didn’t let things stop her from doing the things she wanted. Listening to her tell her story, and how it made me feel, I felt like people have to know my story. And that’s why I am sharing it.
Chantal Huinink works at Christian Horizons in Ontario and is a highly inspirational Self-Advocate. You can find her blog where she describes her visit in September to Vedder Terrace at:
Story about Self-Advocates
Chantal Huinink, a Self-Advocate from Christian Horizons in Ontario, traveled to Bethesda in September and while she was here she spoke to a group of Self-Advocates at a luncheon meeting.
One family’s journey with Bethesda
(Video Credit: Sean Witzke, Brother Creative Agency)
Singing back-up for Brian Doerksen
What if you were invited to sing back-up vocals for a world renowned, award winning, Christian music artist on one of his new songs? Maybe you don’t even have a particularly strong voice. How exciting would that be?
This is exactly what it was like for 12 people who receive services at Bethesda who found themselves one evening in August with Brian Doerksen recording one of his new songs. The singers walked into Crossroads Christian Reformed Church in Chilliwack to a stage set up with mic’s and headphones to could hear the music while they sang their parts. It was a dream. They were giddy with excitement, they couldn’t keep still.
Bethesda is excited and honoured to have Brian Doerksen perform a benefit concert for us on November 3rd. He recently released a new album, Grateful, after several years away from song-writing and performing. The idea of doing a recording with people from Bethesda singing in the background was tossed out casually in an early planning meeting. Yes – of course – he agreed. It would be brilliant! And it was. Brian was enthusiastic about the idea. So were we. Laughing, he talks about not knowing what to expect, not knowing how it would actually work. Finding out it’s physically exhausting, queuing non-professional singers, who are so excited about being there and the music, that they just want to keep singing and laughing, long after they’ve been queued to stop!
When thinking about a song to record with the people from Bethesda, he landed on ‘If Jesus is the Face of God’ one of his news songs on Grateful. The song reflects about how God is “for us”, “on our side” and “wants the best for each of us”. In this song, he imagines a Jesus that ‘seeks the disregarded and marginalized. He gets in their face, looking at them in love’. Brian thought that if the singers sang “Jesus, Jesus, he believes in us”, as part of the chorus, that would be perfect.
And it was.
Reflecting on the finished mix Brian talks about “a joy and energy that bubbles up that you feel when you hear their voices come crashing in. Not perfectly in time, not perfectly in tune, but they’re owning it. They sing with passion and conviction. As the song fades out at the end, you hear their laughter, their clapping. It’s great.”
And it is.
For the singers, the experience was beyond their imagining. They described it as ‘spectacular’ and ‘beautiful to sing with Brian’ and ‘it felt like everyone was a star’.
At the end of the session, when the 12 singers heard their voices mixed in with the music played back to them in their headphones, they broke into a spontaneous cheer! One of the singers, Yoshi, said he was “surprised they got to do this. It shows that we belong in the world just like everyone else.”
At the ‘Grateful’ concert on November 3, Brian will be singing, If Jesus is the Face of God, with the singers from Bethesda joining him on stage. The recording will be available as a single at his concert, with proceeds from the sales going to Bethesda to support people with disabilities and their families.
Bethesda Sings! Enjoy a preview of the Self-Advocates recording with Brian Click here
Walking Alongside Families
She bundles up the kids and gets in the car. Feeling alone, overwhelmed, and with no end in sight, she knows she needs to change something. She heard about Bethesda from a friend and has been meaning to get in touch for a while. Today is that day. She drives to the Bethesda office and asks for help.
At Bethesda, we live for moments like these. When we can catch the hand of a parent and say, yes, we’re here for you.
When Faa first came through our door in a moment like that over two years ago, she was having a hard time. At the time, her and her husband, Reg, had two young children, Summer and Elias. And like most young moms with 2 youngsters, there are times when it’s just too much. But for Faa, everyday was like that. Elias has Down Syndrome and had reached the age where he was getting into everything. For his own safety, she couldn’t leave him alone for even a few minutes. Finding time to care for her oldest daughter, Summer, never mind herself, felt impossible. Finding time and the peace of mind to fill out the paperwork to apply for support from the Ministry of Child and Family Development was far down the list of priorities.
The moment Faa decided to connect with our Family Support Director was life-changing. Looking back, she recalls “Bethesda helped us so much at that time. I am really thankful they were there for us”.
What we offer families like Faa and Reg’s is connection to the supports that will lift them up. We work with families to access government support and services that will help them. Along the way, we get to know them. We connect them to other families for support. They make friends with families who are at all points in the journey of life with a family member who has an intellectual disability. From here, families create a circle of support as they connect with other families, with government agencies, support specialists, and community resources.
At Bethesda, we try to be there for families wherever they are in life. Some families have been with us for over 30 years, while others, like Faa’s family, have recently joined us. We’ve seen and heard first hand, the joy and richness of these families’ journeys. And maybe we play only a small part, something as simple as helping them find a few hours of respite per month, but it’s enough to give families hope. From that hope comes resilience and courage, knowing that they don’t have to walk alone in life, but that they are a part of an interdependent community. And that’s life-changing.
These days, Faa and Reg are feeling much more relaxed. They have a beautiful new baby girl, Snow, and Elias is doing great. He had his first day of pre-school this September and loved it! As a promising athlete, he is entering his second year in the Special Olympics. Faa talks about how connecting with Family Support Services has brought her hope, “When I am feeling overwhelmed in a situation, I feel I can always turn to Bethesda for help.”
Stories like Faa’s are why our fundraising and donations are so important. Bethesda Family Support Services are critical building-block services that aren’t covered by government funding. When families are supported and strong, they can be there fully for their children. And we’re there whenever we’re needed.
To donate to Family Support Services:
Faa, Reg, Summer, Elias and their new daughter Snow, enjoy a day on the water on their recent vacation.