Any city folk knows that when going down a dirt road, there is adventure to be had.
Signs for Stride Adaptive Sports guide visitors to the lodge. Before entering the lodge, a chorus of barks from two beautiful white long-haired American Eskimo dogs sound off as a greeting where LJ and Mary Ellen Whitney welcome you with warm smiles. The lodge is huge with everything a camper would need, from sleeping bags, wool blankets, to board games, crafts, and movies. But do not get too comfortable because this is the annual Wounded Warrior Camping Weekend and they will get you moving.
Stride’s mission is to give those with disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports. Generally their programs are for children, with either learning or physical disabilities, to enjoy athletic and recreational activities. But Stride has been able to take their original goals and add Veterans in on the mix to form a connection between youth and those who served their country. Every year Stride holds a Warrior Boot Camp where children are paired up with a Veteran who teaches them the basics of military duty. All campers wear military-issued uniforms and engage in military activities like learning how to salute, understanding commands, and raising, lowering, and folding of the flag. In addition to this, children get to join in on recreation through paintball, archery, and other sports.
This weekend, however, was different as the Wounded Warrior Camping gives Veterans and their families the chance to enjoy themselves through camping and sports. Just in time for Armed Forces Day, Veterans connected with each other over the camp fire and shared stories while their service dogs played. In the morning, Rob, the grounds caretaker and chef, made breakfast, announcing that the night’s dinner would be pork butt slow cooked for seven hours. After breakfast campers headed over to High and Mighty Therapeutic Riding and Driving Center.
Since 1999 Steve and Laura Corsun have been running the horse farm, “This is supposed to be my retirement but I love it.” said Steve. The farm specializes in providing equine riding to children and adults with special needs. Mostly working one-on-one or in small groups, the farm provides a chance to those with disabilities to engage with the horses, an opportunity they normally would not have. On a sunny and cool Saturday, everyone was able to take a stroll with the resident horses, Romeo, Nemo, and Wow through the woods. “Being with the horses, children develop physical skills like strengthening their backs or neck but they also form special bonds with the horses.” said Laura.
Afterwards, campers were able to participate in any activity they wanted, whether it was archery, fishing, hiking, or playing disc golf. Again the night ended just like how it began, in front of a camp fire. On the last day before packing up, everyone was treated to a morning yoga class taught by a volunteer.
It was clear that everyone had made new friends along with expanding their network. More importantly, while many were tired, all were happy, relaxed, and able to participate together without limits.