Cameron McDougal ‘12, Grayson Swaim ‘12 and Anthony (Tony) Gigli ’01 recently completed their second summer as chaperones at Hear Indiana’s Youth Leadership Camp for hard of hearing and deaf children. This year, the Wabash tradition continued with a mix of old and new chaperones: Cameron, Tony, Seth Young ’11, and Jordan Surenkamp, ’13. Gregg Schipp ’11 assisted.
Tony currently serves as President of the Board and Camp Director for Hear Indiana, a nonprofit organization which advocates independence through listening and talking. In addition to hosting the summer camp, Hear Indiana also provides advocacy, support, educational programming, and financial aid for those with hearing loss or the professionals who serve them.
In other words, Hear Indiana is Doing Deaf Differently. The children they serve all wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, and they are learning to listen, speak, and thrive in the hearing world.
Spending a week at the extraordinary Bradford Woods’ camp facility, nestled in the hills of southern Indiana fosters an unusual closeness. Even among those who attend Wabash together, the experience strengthens an already close bond that is unheard of to outsiders.
There were a whirlwind of activities for the campers and chaperones. We went swimming in the lake, fishing, canoeing and played many games that required a team effort to accomplish the end goal. In what has become an annual tradition, we created a hand painted banner to commemorate this year's camp. The children also participated in archery, woodworking and ultimate Frisbee. One morning, we found ourselves going on a nature hike while another group did recreational activities. My botany class with Aus Brooks at Wabash was never so helpful in answering the questions from the campers!
One evening, we took a night swim and had an amazing pool time together. That was definitely the most unique experience for Seth and Jordan because they are not hard of hearing. Imagine attempting to get the attention of 40 campers and the chaperones without their assistive hearing devices! It was a challenge they conquered.
The encompassing experience of living and being with these children for a week taught us that living with hearing loss is challenging, but with the right frame of mind we can embrace this disability. There is no magic formula; we all deal with it differently.
Next year’s camp will grow on this year’s extraordinary experience at Bradford Woods. We will prove once more the timeless examples that the Wabash brotherhood will forever think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.
In Photos: Wabash guys with campers, at top right Cameron McDougal '12 and lower left Jordan Surenkamp '13.