The following is a reprint of an article by Candace Reifschneider, published in the September issue of The Quiver. Photos by Barbara Williams.
Every year, the Camp Casey Kiwanis put on a weeklong camp for a group of kids to have the opportunity to be exactly that – kids. Each of these children has an extra challenge in life to navigate, whether a missing limb, motor function, sight, or a different disability.
The activities include the normal things you’d think of, such as arts and crafts, horseback riding, bike riding, and the most popular of them all, swimming in the pool.
Unfortunately, it was discovered early in the year the pool needed major repair, and as such would not be available last summer. Knowing the highlight of camp was no longer available, the race was on to fill the void, and the camp directors scrambled to identify various options. With archery one of the top contenders, a request was made to Skookum Archers to facilitate an archery experience for this group of exceptional kids.
The request from Camp Casey was put before the Board and was immediately approved. With the alignment of the universe, crossed fingers, and good old-fashioned luck, this became one of the most rewarding experiences for those who volunteered on July 31.
Aligning the universe may seem a bit of an elaboration, but a lot had to happen to make this magical day occur. Kiwanis contracts with Seattle Pacific University to use the Camp Casey facilities. Kiwanis had to work with Skookum Archers and confirm with SPU, who had to confirm with their counsel about what had to be done from a liability perspective.
This resulted in the archery course being moved just feet off the SPU property to the Camp Casey Historical Artillery Bunkers, which are owned and managed by the state parks. This required Kiwanis to work with SPU, who had to schedule with state parks and get them to agree to allow the archery set-up for one day of the camp. The universe did not disappoint, and all was aligned.
On July 31, the volunteers rolled out of Puyallup at 7 a.m. and into Camp Casey at 10 a.m. The bunkers were swept, targets and tents set up, bows strung, arrows lined up, coolers stocked, and by 11 a.m., our first campers rolled or walked up to try archery, most for the first time.
We had 70 to 80 campers who navigated archery equipment amidst dozens of different types of wheelchairs, walkers, braces, and other tools of assistance.
Our very first camper was a young lady, who, although she doesn’t have use of her arms, had the desire to try something new and pulled the string back with her teeth (She nailed the target!). Each camper showed me the same determination, whether it was shooting with their feet, an elbow, or with the assistance of an instructor.
The kids had infectious personalities full of joy and laughter that made you want to be in their presence. There were the one or two kids who initially had fear of the unknown, and their fellow campers would rally around them to help supply the confidence to try the first arrow, which would quickly turn into the second or third.
At the end of the day, after everything was packed up and the volunteers were ready to start the trek back to Puyallup, each one of us reminisced on what a wonderful day it had been, how we were hoping we’d have the opportunity to be part of Camp Casey 2020, and how the endless smiles would be forever a fond memory.
One of the camp volunteers paid us the greatest compliment: “When I heard they were bringing archery in for these kids, I couldn’t imagine how it would work, but you guys made it work. You allowed every one of these kids to just be like every other kid, and have the opportunity to try something many of them never thought they’d get to do.”
Looking back at the experience of sharing archery with this group of kids, it’s hard to imagine a better example of pure determination, living life to the fullest, and not letting anything prevent you from trying new things.