Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp
By David Powdrell
So, here’s the deal….ten years ago this week, I was asked by my friend, Libby, to stop by UCSB to photograph some wheelchair-bound kids doing some sporting activities. “Just one hour”, she promised. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed, anticipating some angry, sad, whining kids in wheelchairs.
As the kids got off the bus, however, I heard laughter. I saw big, beautiful smiles. I snapped photographs as fast as I could as counselors, campers and volunteers hugged long, meaningful, powerful hugs.
This is a photographer’s heaven. After the hour was up, I immediately called my wife and asked her to cancel all appointments for the rest of the week; I was sticking around to capture the magic of the Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp.
I set my goal as a photographer at that moment: Fill up the scrapbooks for all the campers as best I could with images of those stunning smiles and capture their accomplishments as they transpired.
The 2018 Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp ended yesterday. Confidentially, I’m moved to tears each year as I watch these incredible kids, ages 5-17, scale climbing walls, scuba dive, kayak, play rugby, tennis, soccer and so much more.
The story of this camp is important. All participants and their families pay nothing to attend the week-long event, thanks to Cottage Health, Cottage Rehabilitation Foundation, UCSB and dozens of sponsors. Approximately 80+ amazing volunteers help administer to the needs of the 44 campers. Rene Van Hoorn leads the charge and is nothing short of a saint.
More importantly, I’ve learned a few things these last 10 years: (a) Preconceived notions that kids in wheelchairs are angry or sad isn’t true. In fact, they are all capable of doing anything they set their minds to. (b) They are all due the respect and admiration that everyone else is. (c) Their caregivers are all heroes. (d) Sports are an excellent way to develop self-confidence and bust through plateaus in recovery.
I look forward to another 10 years filling scrapbooks.
Additional images can be viewed at 2018 Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp