For anyone looking to make a difference, volunteering as a counselor with the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp may fit the bill perfectly.
“It’s a great volunteer experience,” said Megan Forst, camp director with the MDA of the Coastal Empire.
Forst should know, considering she volunteered as a counselor for six years.
The camp will be held at New Ebenezer Retreat Center from June 9-15 as it has been for the last 10-15 years. About 23 individuals have signed up so far.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Forst noted, adding that it is well equipped for those who are handicapped.
Counselors are needed to work closely with campers during the week-long stay-away camp. Each volunteer will be assigned to about two campers, according to Forst. Their duties include helping to lift campers in and out of their wheel chairs. They stay overnight with the campers.
They will have to attend training all day Saturday and part of Sunday.
The campers arrive Sunday afternoon. The week ahead is full of activities for such as fishing, arts and crafts, power soccer, therapy and a talent show.
“We like to have them do things they don’t get to do at home,” Forst said.
And the camp is just for the children. This time away from home allows parents to get a much-needed week off.
The experience not only serves the campers and parents, but the volunteers, as well. Forst explained it gives them a chance to interact with people they may not interact with otherwise.
Eric Relford of Charleston, S.C., has been volunteering for seven years. The Coast Guardsman learned about the MDA summer camps through his high school’s DECA chapter. As a member of the Coast Guard, he is given up to two weeks per year to volunteer with the organization of his choice.
He has consistently chosen the MDA.
“It’s a good time,” he said.
As a counselor he helps campers get in and out of bed, shower, swim, with their therapy and so forth.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Relford said.
His reason for volunteering is simple — the people.
“It’s just the people,” Relford said. “That’s what keeps you coming back every year.”
The 27-year-old plans to resign from the Coast Guard this month, however, he plans to keep participating in the summer camps as long as they’ll take him. Relford encourages others to volunteer, too.
High school graduates headed for college may note the experience on their college applications. Forst said that she would provide students with references.
MDA summer camps have more than 4,000 campers and over 5,000 volunteer counselors each year, according to the MDA Web site. Counselors are expected to make their assigned camper the focus of the week, ensuring that they enjoy themselves. They should be open-minded, able to follow directions, fun-loving and strong communicators.
Forst said anyone who wants to volunteer should do so soon as the camp will start soon. They should call her at (843) 556-3654 to receive an application or to get additional information. The MDA’s Web site at www.mda.org also has additional information.