On what would have been a typical workday, Tech Guru employees Nate Blomquist, Joe Kessler, and Maria Lundberg headed to Wisconsin for summer camp. Their paid time off to volunteer as Camp Oz counselors for the day amounted to an experience far richer than any of them had expected when they arrived at the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota‘s camp for children diagnosed with epilepsy.
Joe Kessler at Maria Lundberg at Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota’s Camp Oz.
Not for the Faint of Heart
Nate, Joe, and Maria were in for a day as busy as any Thursday at the office of Tech Guru. The camp, organized for children of various ages, was held at the YMCA in Hudson, Wisconsin, near St. Croix. Volunteers were first given the itinerary and briefed on what to expect – for example, plenty of nursing staff was on hand in case a child experienced a seizure.
The groups were split by gender for much of the day. The kids played volleyball, and another game had campers standing in a circle holding a rope. Whoever found herself with the knot got to ask the group a question, such as, “Where would you love to travel?” or, “How would you describe yourself?” Answers from a couple of 9-year-old-girls were “vivacious” and “intelligent.” Maria smiles as she recalls their responses, “I thought to myself, ‘Yes, you are!'”
Various other activities comprising the fun day at camp included beading bracelets, throwing hatchets, singing, playing bongos, and learning a native tribal dance. There was no shortage of ways to engage the campers!
Making a Connection
When Joe arrived at camp he was assigned to be with fifth-year attendee Max (not his real name). Max had both epilepsy and ADHD. Following Max’s lead, Joe spent a lot of time running around with imaginary gnomes and magic crystals and staffs. “It was the most incredible experience,” says Joe, who connected with Max more and more as the day progressed. The pair talked about video games, TV shows, the space shuttle, and Disneyland. “By the end of the day,” says Joe, “we were good buds.” As Max practiced his archery skills, the camp coordinator told Joe that in five years of coming to camp, Max had only warmed up to someone that way once before.
This Won’t be the Last Time
The benefit of your employer paying your salary while you’re of service to your community is that you actually go and do it! It’s not that it hadn’t occurred to Nate to volunteer in this capacity. As he explains, “It’s one of those things in the back of your head that you want to do, but you think, ‘I really need to mow my lawn.'”
“The experience was really eye-opening to a disease I didn’t know anything about,” says Joe. All of the campers have some kind of disability, and the seizures that accompany epilepsy can leave varying degrees of brain damage. “Our hats go off to the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota,” he adds, “The patience of the staff is incredible.”
Would the trio like to return to camp next year? “Absolutely,” says Nate, who would would love to attend for more than one day, if possible, next time. “Maria and I are already arguing about who will get to go for the whole week.” Joe agrees. “As long as I get to go next year, I’d love to get paired up with Max again.”
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Dan Moshe helps business owners in the Minneapolis area with all things tech, and is the CEO of the Caring IT company Tech Guru. He cares about your business as much as you do!