Coming Full Circle: the road to recovery.

On February 9th, at 2:30 pm, I woke up in my car. I had blacked out on impact from an automobile accident while driving my son home from sledding. That day I woke up to a completely different world—a world that was not accessible. Three vertebrae in my neck had been damaged, a disc in my back was bulged, my femur was broken, and my acetabulum (what holds the ball of my hip in place) was broken all the way through. My son suffered wounds to his face from the broken windshield. All I could do was be still—I couldn’t even put weight on the left side of my body. Everything had changed.

I was confined to a wheelchair. My son and I moved back into my mother’s. It was hard to not be able to take care of my son, to bathe or cook for him, but it was being unable to keep up with him that was heartbreaking. I missed his Valentine’s Day party at school, which would have been fun for both of us (I’m studying to be a teacher, and practicing teaching craft lessons with the kids is good for my career goals). That was one of the many things I missed out on while recovering. I also lost a semester of school because hardly any buildings on my campus are handicap accessible.

As the weather got nicer, my son wanted to be outside more. We tried to take walks around the block. I wouldn’t think that rolling around the block would be difficult, but I was wrong. Tree roots, uneven sidewalks, and missing ramps made it nearly impossible to get around. It was very painful to try to navigate around a once-familiar neighborhood. Aside from the terrible pain I felt in my arms from trying to move the wheels, I felt the struggle of trying to keep up with my son.

It made me think about my experiences from Summer when I went with clients of PARC (now known as EP!C) and how wonderful it was to have a place that allowed individuals with disabilities to access nature. For 11 years, Camp Big Sky, a nonprofit organization, has been providing opportunities like fishing tournaments and camping.

On a Thursday morning, Phoebe Johnson brought the bus around and the two of us worked together to board three individuals from EP!C. Every other Thursday clients from EP!C get a chance to go visit Camp Big Sky. After seat belts were fastened and a walker was secure, we took off to Fairview, IL, to enjoy an afternoon of boating and hay rack riding. Sometimes, dependent upon the client, weather, and timeframe, clients would drop a cane pole into the water in the hopes of catching one of the bluegill that linger around the dock.

The route to camp cuts through memories of my childhood. We pass through Farmington, IL, on the main drag in which takes you downtown. I saw the Wareco gas station that I would visit for a cool drink or sugary snack, now all tattered and closed to the public. Right across the street was the doctor’s office I went to throughout my childhood. After we passed downtown, the terrain gets very hilly and you’d think we had found a portal to Vermont. However, we just found a place that the glaciers haven’t completely flattened when the terrain in Illinois was being formed. Clients looked at me, unsure of the shaking and the dips we experienced and I smiled with reassurance and clapped, pretending we were on a wooden coaster at Six Flags. In turn, they smiled and cheered back.

The view is very pleasant seeing ancient blue International Harvester corn bins, big red barns, Swedish quilt-like crests on buildings, and bodies of water. Phoebe made the final turn onto the white gravel road meeting the gate with a bleached bone white cow skull and sign declaring that this was Camp Big Sky. Our bus cleared a drastic hill to the top to where all the volunteers were waiting.

The fun began there. After unloading and slabbing on sunblock, we enjoyed a beautiful day at camp. A red-wing blackbird sang in a barren tree with a glimpse of the moon behind it. Aboard the pontoon, clients were thrilled to see a herd of cows run down to the strip mine lake and playfully moo and swim. We were joined by volunteers who attended a ten week training program, some of them clients from EP!C. One of the volunteer playfully suggested that the craft be dubbed the Burger Barge.

Seated on the hydraulic hay rack ride, I felt like I was transferred back into a time where Illinois hadn’t been settled. Long grass and clovers waved in the wind. An aerial view of the lake could be seen from our seats. Dragonflies of multiple colors could be spotted. The skies really were big and Kool Aid blue. Although bumpy and jolting, we all could have been seated in a covered wagon discovering the ground of the Camp for the first time. I think we all felt as free as the hawk that was flying high above these plains that day.

Although I am no longer in a wheel chair, I appreciate this place and am happy for its existence. I am happy that the client that is in a wheel chair could stroll with me in the tall prairie grass by means of a hayrack ride. I think of how difficult it was for me to go around my mother’s neighborhood and how I was alienated from my own school, and yet there is a place designated for all people to experience nature at no cost to them. I think of all the different people that the camp encompasses and the smiles and memories that come from pulling up a cane pole with a fish on it, or coasting down the lake by the breeze. I intend to take my son out there to enjoy its healing qualities that come from being out there. He is on the autistic spectrum and the owner has invited me to bring him out.

Camp Big Sky is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with additional days if needed). American Veterans are also welcome to experience the healing quality that recreation and nature can bring. More about the camp can be found at http://www.campbigsky.org.

 

The Lee's Landing dock at Bruce Lake.

The Lee’s Landing dock at Bruce Lake.

Advertisements

The Alpha

image

What’s your superhero name? Tara, a FSW here at The Children’s Home, is The Alpha. She showed us who was boss by being our very first superhero!
Keepsacks for Kids benefits those in our community who are in need by giving them blankets and hygiene kits. By donating and making blankets, you become a superhero.
So take a #superselfie and tag us in it on Instagram! @peoriacorpsil

Keepsacks for Kids

In roughly four months, the biggest event for Fostering Transitions: AmeriCorps takes place and everyone is already gearing up!  Fleece has been bought, scissors are being sharpened, and hundred of donation letters and event flyers are being made.  What exactly is Keepsacks for Kids?  It is an annual project that collects fleece and hygiene supplies to then make blankets and hygiene kits for all the local shelters.  Unfortunately, there is a huge need and we make hundreds upon hundreds of blankets and over a thousand hygiene kits.  This is where the community comes in.  We need donations.  And a lot of them.  We need fleece, hygiene supplies, scissors, bags, socks, and even gift cards can be very very helpful!  We have gotten pretty creative with how we go about getting our help and this year we’re thinking about having groups sponsor a blanket.  You can get together a group of your friends, your family, your coworkers, neighbors, and school mates, each chip a few dollars and make a no-sew blanket that can then go to someone in need. 

Right now, it’s hard to think about anyone needing a blanket.  The weather has been sweltering hot lately and all you want to do is sit in front of a fan.  I get it.  But just a couple of months ago, we were all bundled up in layers, still dealing with a polar vortex.  There are people without layers who need a little extra.  If this is something that you would like to be a part of, feel free to contact us on here.  We will be sure to keep everyone updated on what we having going on and will be hopefully starting an Instagram soon so that everyone can enjoy the process with us. 

Stay cool!

Summer Fun!

School is out, graduations are over, and there are big things happening in the Peoria area!  Summer is a good time for community actions and block parties and that’s exactly what is going to be happening!  Come August 5 at 5:00 in the evening, the entire East Bluff is coming together to do a peace walk and then celebrate the summer and a crime free area.  Join AmeriCorps with our friends from the East Bluff Community for the Night Out Against Crime!  There’s always delicious food and fun games along with lots of great people.  AmeriCorps is very excited to be helping for another year and can’t wait to have fun. 

But that’s not all that we have going on.  Ignite Peoria is also coming up in August at the Civic Center.  It’s an interactive art exhibit with visual arts, music, dance, theatre, and different unique arts.  We are very excited to go and see that and we invite you to come as well since general admission and parking is free for the event!  You can join us on August 9th for an entire day of fun!

(http://www.ignitepeoria.com/, http://artspartners.net/ignite-peoria/)

We have many new members starting a summer term and taking on a summer full of camp!  They will enjoy long days with many kids of all ages at a variety of different camps.  The members who are stationed at the Children’s Home will continue to find things to do all summer long while helping with the East Bluff Build It Up (formerly Taking Back Our Neighborhood), and will be visiting a few pre-schools for our literary projects.  Our project from last year where we teamed up with Youth Build has gotten back together and they are currently working on fixing up houses on Frye.  If you know of anyone in the East Bluff that may need some house work please contact Glen Oak Community Church about their In As Much program.

Of course, AmeriCorps would not be AmeriCorps if we did not start preparing for Keepsacks!  Keepsacks is our annual project where we gather fleece and hygiene items in order to make blankets and hygiene kits to deliver to the shelters in the area.  Did you know the average age of a homeless person in Illinois is 9 years old?  This fact breaks our hearts and so we do our very best to help take care of them while their family gets back on their feet.  Luckily, we have a surplus of hygiene supplies left over from our time in Washington to help make our kits but we will as always need donations for blankets. 

Enjoy the sun and stay cool!