COLUMN: Anderson Woods provides ongoing teaching moments for campers

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Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles about Anderson Woods, a summer camp near Adyeville for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The columns are written by Megan Gatwood.

“Are we going to have Christmas in July this week?” That was the question many campers asked when they arrived for session seven of Anderson Woods summer camp. This session we hosted 25 adult campers most of which are veteran campers. It is always exciting for both staff and campers to rekindle friendships from years past. For the last few years, the camp staff has hosted a Christmas in July day of fun for one week out of the summer. The day is full of Christmas cheer from the dining-hall lights and decorations to the many holiday activities in which the campers and staff participate throughout the day.

This year we were blessed to have a pianist, Janice Rodriguez, come and provide a Christmas sing-along. The enthusiasm and beautiful voices echoed throughout the woods.

It was here that counselor Emily Loherlein noticed how much can be learned from our special ones and how well they can teach those around them. When it was time to sing “Silent Night,” first time camper, Robbie, raised his hand in excitement and asked to teach everyone the sign language to the song.

He came up in front and did it with such elegance and grace. The room was quiet and attentive while Robbie shared with us his remarkable talent. Emily states, “Society continually underestimates what our special ones can do, but it’s in these small moments that not only can they teach you important skills, but they teach you a different perspective on life.”

Many of the staff speak of this type of teaching that occurs here in this special place which causes a person to grow, mature and learn to truly embrace life.

Counselor Noah Gatwood shared what the last six years of working here has taught him. “It’s the unconditional love that our special ones don’t see people for their faults but rather scope out their gifts and learn to love them for that,” he said.

Anderson Woods is a teaching camp. The staff instruct the campers, but more importantly, the campers continually teach us about life and the kind of people we each desire to be. Anderson Woods Inc. is a 5013C nonprofit corporation located near Bristow serving camping and residential needs of persons with special needs. Inquiries are invited.