Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – The Sarah Effect

Name: Rachel Marie Hutchings
From: Peculiar, Missouri
Grade: College Freshman
School: University of Arkansas
Votes: 0


Watching her cabin mate bleat out the lyric to One Direction’s “What Makes
You Beautiful”, twenty six year old Sarah Meyers turned to me with
a huge ecstatic smile on her face. Talking faster than I had ever
seen her, Sarah’s passion for music became crystal clear as she
sung to the karaoke machine set up by the small makeshift stage.
After about ten minutes of smiles and carefree song, I turned to her
and asked, “Sarah, do you think you want to go up and sing? It
would be really funny!” Throughout the next forty five minutes of
gentle encouragement and group persuasion, the twenty six year old
was finally convinced to mount the steps of the stage. After picking
out her song, Sarah pivoted to her eager audience with a hesitant
smile and the black microphone clutched tightly in both hands. As the
opening bars of “Who Let The Dogs Out” by Baha Men poured out of
the speaker, however, her nervousness and thus my hidden worry slowly
drained away. With hair flips and wide eyed enthusiasm Sarah rocked
that song, even having her others cabin mates sing the chorus back to
her just like a true rock star. Witnessing this, I could not help but
feel proud and delighted at Sarah’s joy as I once again observed
her overcoming her disability and my previous perceptive of the

For me, this scene was one of the many meaningful experiences I have had
as I volunteer at a summer camp called Camp Barnabas in hills of
southern Missouri last summer. Focused on aiding disabled people of
all ages and handicaps, this program allows volunteers to come for
week at a time and partner with one of their disabled campers.
Together for twenty three hours a day, volunteers or CIAs assist
their campers with anything they need including going to the
bathroom, showering, eating, and walking. In cabins of ten partners
with two staff members, the weeks are packed with daily cabin
activities, camp wide events, and mealtimes as the camp and the
volunteers’ major goal is to get their campers to have fun while
still staying safe. Last summer I volunteered there and meet Sarah
who ended up turning my perspective on disabled people turned on its

As part of her disability, Sarah experiences violent seizures that could
come on at any time and that ranged in severity. Her main triggers
for these seizures are elevated heart rate coming from moving too
fast, overheating, sweating, or anything else that got her heart rate
up. Also adding to her struggle was that though twenty six, she had
the mental ability of seven year old. However in spite of the odds
stacked against her I watched Sarah overcome them and enjoy countless
things I had forgotten to be grateful for.

Prior to going to camp, I now realize that, I had similar prejudice beliefs
about disabled people as many others have. Core to those was that
these people were largely a hindrance to their family and friends,
they could not completely grasp anything, and that they are people to
feel somewhat sorry for. However by the time I had completed my week
in this program that perspective and my life that followed was
changed as I realized that these people bring a love for life and
others humans unlike any I have ever seen.

From Sarah and the other campers in my cabin, I have learned an educated
and truthful outlook on disabilities that I will carry with me for
the rest of my life. Sarah, Hannah, Jordan, and others showed me just
how wrong my idea of disabled people was as they accomplished
activities that I would not have been able to do in their position
and showed me a love for life that I did not know was possible. One
of these instances was when various campers would go up to sing (they
love to sing) in front of the whole camp at each mealtime without a
care in the world. Despite not having a disability, I know that
unless forced, I would have had an extremely difficult time of
accomplish that.

As for their passion and love for the world and others around them,
Sarah showed this noble trait to me each and every day I was with
her. Overcoming her fear and embarrassment of her seizures, Sarah did
not let the possibility that she could die from her disability faze
her as she drew countless pictures for her family and new friends as
she (to borrow her signature phrase) ‘chit chatted’ with everyone
around her. Her passion and will to never give in humbled me while
doing a great deal to make me realize that these people are, in many
ways, stronger than I am.

Due to this change of perspective that this program has caused in myself,
I have gone on to continue to volunteer at Camp Barnabas and join
other programs that help the disabled like Special Olympics and Polar
Plunge. Camp Barnabas and these organizations allow me to have pride
in my volunteering as I know that not only am I helping those with
disabilities like Sarah, I am also overcoming prejudices that will
make me a better person. Overall my experience at camp and with Sarah
influenced my life in a way I could never dream and I will be forever
grateful for that.

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