Name: Riley Stewart
From: Sherwood, Oregon
School: Sherwood High school
Hundred and Thirty Six
Three hundred and thirty six hours a year. An insignificant number in the
grand scheme of things, especially when considering that a year is
comprised of eight thousand seven hundred and sixty hours.Yet, I look
forward to those hours the most out of everything: holidays, dances,
and graduation, hands down; camp always wins.
I entered the Camp to Belong family when I was nine years old, after my
families brief stint of fostering. After watching my parents
frustration with the system, the ideas presented by CTB were a beacon
of hope during a very dark time. Camp to Belong specializes in
reuniting siblings who are in separate foster or adoptive homes.
During the week siblings do regular camp activities: archery,
boating, and swimming, as well as some unusual activities. There is a
birthday night where each sibling group gets their very own cake, and
each sibling is able to pick out a present for each other. These
presents are based solely on donations (enter me).
From the age of nine until present, I have used my birthday money to buy a
plethora of gifts for the campers. This has always been a treat for
me, I love shopping and buying gifts for others honestly inflates my
ego. For seven years I remained in the shadows, too young to be a
camp counselor, methodically purchasing gifts, not truly
understanding the importance of camp.
I left camp as an entirely new person, less judgemental, quieter, and
more determined than ever to make a change. Entering camp, I was
crippled by the fear of being a horrible counselor, and embarrassing
myself. But the second I met my campers, I realized that the week
wasn’t about me, the week is about these amazing foster siblings
getting to eat meals together, and make up for lost time. The week is
about making the kids feel loved and important, which is so hard,
because so many of them have been through unimaginable things, and
they don’t realize how strong they are.
The week is about sacrifice. It’s smelling horrible because you’ve
only been able to shower once the entire week. It’s about not
responding when called a “spoiled rich kid” by a resentful camper
on the last day. It’s understanding that what you’re doing
affects so much more than just you. My campers are permanent fixture
in my heart, and I worry about them daily. But that’s how Camp to
Belong gets you; you don’t expect to fall in love with service, but
you do, and you find yourself constantly thinking about what else you
can do for those wonderful kids.