Read about the powerful impact Footpath Camp 2017 had on our campers and volunteers!
Hello Footpath followers! My name is Medea and I am Mary Macias’ sister- in- law. I was very excited to have the opportunity to go to camp this year- and I am so glad that I went! Mary worked so hard for Footpath to become a reality, so it was very exciting to see all of her efforts be executed in person. Living in Los Angeles, it’s been hard to grasp all of the countless hours her and her team have put into getting these kids to camp each year. This year, Footpath was able to take 58 kids to camp for 4 days!
Going into this experience, I knew that it would bring a new perspective to my life. I am comfortable around kids- having 4 nieces and almost of my friends having little ones as well. I was not worried about that part, but knew that these kids were coming from a different lifestyle so was curious to see how they would act. The first day of camp everyone was excited, and some a little nervous. You could feel the anticipation in the air as each kid was assigned to their counselor and cabins. The rest of the day was filled with multiple rotations getting everyone acclimated to camp and the grounds. We had our first mess hall dinner and a fun icebreaker on the grass with a welcome bonfire to end the night.
One thing that I noticed right away, was how independent and driven these kids were. Ranging from ages 8-13, there were no breakdowns the first night about missing parents and wanting to go home. Everyone (for the most part) was kind and considerate and happy to be there. They were also willing to take direction and eager to get their “chores” done. Each cabin was in charge of setting up for a meal and cleaning up after. Cabin inspections were done each morning and scored for a prize at the end of camp. All three of the boys cabins took this very seriously, way more than the girls. They were not messing around! Even after they knew cabin check was done in the AM, you could hear each kid shout out to” take their shoes off” or “hang your towel” when coming and going. It was so great to see them each learning to be responsible and accountable for their actions and to work together as a team.
Throughout the entire time at camp, I also noticed how fearless and supportive each camper was. Many were not scared to get out there and try new things and make new friends. Two of the biggest excursions were canoeing and the rock wall. So many campers had not done either, but most attempted both and faced their fears to realize that they did like it! The interviews we did of the kids were so incredible that many brought me to tears. The words they used to describe the experience and how they felt after – beautiful, amazing, proud, excited, brave. Instant self-esteem boosts. Having come from a world where they don’t get to see the outdoors in this light was something so special.
The encouragement that each child offered was very emotional as well. Mary and I were tagging along with the eldest girl’s cabin during their rock wall experience. As we stood watching, two girls were stuck on the wall about halfway up, when suddenly all you could hear were words of encouragement from the girls on the ground. “Keep going! You got this girl!” “You can do it!” they screamed. Both girls ended up making it to the top and cheers erupted, high fives and hugs were given – what a undefinable moment!
Another favorite memory for me was when many of the boys decided that they wanted to try Shibori. As an afternoon activity, you could choose from sports, swimming, crafting, and music. As suspected, many choose sports the first day but after seeing the cool shirts that you could make, the second day was filled with many more campers excited to craft! Almost all of the kids asked if they could make shirts to give to their Moms, Dads, brothers and sisters. It was so thoughtful of them to take time out and think of others while in this exciting environment. The last day of camp was filled with campers proudly wearing their Shibori shirts!
I knew that I had wanted to have one on one conversations with as many kids as I could during camp. To learn more about them (if they wanted to share), how camp was going and anything else that was on their mind. There were a couple of kids that instantly gravitated towards me. They wanted to know about California, how to work my camera and if I was really named after the movie 🙂 There is such an innocence to that question that I can’t help but laugh everytime. With so many campers, it was hard to remember everyone’s name. I was shocked that at breakfast the second day, many remembered mine, and I was stumbling to remember their names! While many of my conversations throughout camp remained mostly about camp, I could see it in their eyes that they were happy to have someone care and take the time to hear about their days. Their faces lit up when they told me that they canoed all the way to the freshwater spring or swam in the deep end of the lake for the first time. There were even several times where kids would just come up to me and give me a hug- ensure more tears!
After having time to decompress and start to reflect on this experience, it is tough to really convey to an outsider just how special my time at camp was. It was filled with so many little moments. These moments made me stop and realize what a unique time this was for these kids and how amazing they each were individually. Even though they may not comprehend it now, they will have these carefree memories with them for years to come. Their eyes were opened to new experiences, feelings and emotions. They had a chance to learn more about themselves, discover likes and dislikes and hopefully the courage to remember to pursue these activities as they grow up. For me, this opportunity came at a time in my life where I needed to get out of Los Angeles and reset. I too, felt like these kids- being present in the moment and able to forget about everything that was happening at home. It allowed me to think calmly and envision what I want out of the future both personally and professionally. This trip helped me as much as I tried to help these kids. My hope is that I will get to return to camp next year to see the returning campers growth and meet the new campers with open arms to run free outdoors.