Alumni Camper to Counselor - Inspiring reflection from Charles Trafelet
Camp Shout Out: Where all are heard
I don’t quite remember my age or the year, the day or the meal we were all eating when my mom told my brother and I WE had been signed up to go to camp that summer. “It’s only for a week!” “It’s a camp for kids who stutter!” “You’ll like it there, I promise!” I don’t know what Drew was thinking in that moment, but the only thing I was hearing was the voice in my head telling me how scared I should be, how nervous I am at talking to people. What should be exciting news for most kids turned into a nightmare for me! I truly felt dread as a week of my summer transformed into something unknown. I had never been to a summer camp before. I had a hard time stomaching the rest of dinner that night.
With all the fuss I had over the big news, it had honestly faded from my mind and within a week or two, I was back to playing video games and laying in my room during the day. So, the realization hit me twice as hard when my mom opened my bedroom door and dropped a travel bag full of my clothes and other important stuff on my bed, “It’s time to go, sweetie!”
It took my family and I two days to get to Michigan. We stayed in Indiana at my grandma’s house overnight and then, bright and early, we drove from there to Camp Shout Out!
I remember that first right turn into the campground off of the main road. Drew and I were both quiet. We hadn’t really talked about what we thought was in store for us during the ride either. Maybe we were both thinking this was going to be bad. Maybe it was just me. My dad helped us carry our bags down this giant hill that led to the campground and it only took a couple steps for my mood to begin lifting. I saw a basketball court. I loved basketball! I still do. It was the sport I played in middle school and the best part, no talking was required to drain a shot from free-throw distance or box an opponent out to get the rebound for my team. The only thing I wanted to do was run over there and grab a ball, but before that, I met Adam. He was super nice! He greeted my brother, myself and my parents. Then he led us to the cabins we would be staying in. I found him so interesting. He was goofy, big and really funny. Adam was like one of the popular kids back at school, but he was talking to me and asking me questions. It was like I was one of the popular kids! Drew had a smile on his face too. It turned out that we were in different cabins thanks to our age, but that was ok. My parents even said that It would be good for us both to have some time away from each other.
And just like that, we were moved in! My parents had left after about an hour more of touring around the camp and meeting more nice folks. That first day really did go by fast. I remember playing a lot of basketball, saying hi to a few of the other campers out playing. We all had nametags on which made everything so much easier! For me, the worst thing about stuttering is that it was hard to say my name. It’s kind of a difficult one, Char-les … and don’t even get me started on my last name. That’s another whole can of worms.
Later, a really loud bell rang and I was at the perfect spot to see every camper on the basketball court and even many farther away in an open field turn their heads and look toward the noise. It was the signal for everyone to line-up at, “The stump,” literally a big stump near the mess hall, and get ready to eat. “Line-up in your cabins! Line-up in your cabins! We’re not gonna stop singing this song till you line-up in your cabins!” Every single counselor in sight started singing and clapping their hands. I had not seen a group of kids that big, all of the kids at camp, line-up so fast before! I wondered why more teachers didn’t break out into song when they wanted their students to behave. I saw Drew among his cabin line and I waved. He waved back and had an even bigger grin on his face than before.
We sang another song before being ushered into the mess hall. That was where I met Karl! I knew him at the time as the chef, a really good one at that, and the guy that liked to tell all the campers what the emergency sirens sounded like when they went off. “TORNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADO!” “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!” The food was amazing, chicken tenders, my absolute favorite!
All of it was fun so far, a total 180 from what I had expected, but this moment is when my experience at Camp Shout Out had truly been made special. I was sitting at one of those outdoor picnic tables with the green rubber holes that you can poke your finger through and on the other side was a speech-pathologist. I wish I remembered her name, but she was really nice and patient with me, just like the speech-pathologist I had meetings with back in school. We were talking about my speech and all I could think of was the similarities between this and back at school. They were far and few inbetween, honestly. I learned some new tips and tricks with my breathing and trying them out made hard sounds for me to push out easier. I just kept thinking about the money my parents had spent for me to come here even though I had no grasp of any details of that, really. I just had the overwhelming urge to speak up and I did. To this day … I am so thankful to whatever gave me that courage.
“I want to make sure I get as much as I can out of this. I want a challenge!” I might have even said it with perfect fluency too, but I’m really not sure. Kristin caught wind of this, the founder of Camp Shout Out, and my future there had changed. I was the oldest kid there. So, I was put in charge of explaining the rules of all the games we played to the other campers. They asked me to help come up with new activities to do with Adam and the rest of the counselors. I even lead a song! The rest of my week consisted of me being put in challenging situations where I had to use my voice, take advantage of the tips and tricks I learned at Camp Shout Out and back at school in order to communicate everything I needed to.
This experience really meant the world to me. I felt so special! It was this experience that brought me back to CSO the next year … and the next … and the next. Camp developed the L.I.T (leader in training) program and I got to be a part of that, making rope bridges, going on river trips and acting out cool skits we made up for the campers every morning. It was nerve wracking, my first time performing a skit in front of all of camp, a speaking role too. Once I got into it though, I loved it. I loved performing. I loved every second of it. I was in high school at this point and if I could go back a couple years, I would have joined the theatre club at school and performed shows on stage. Now, I come back to Camp every summer as a counselor. I hope I can make this experience at Camp as amazing for them as it was for me.
-Loyal CSO counselor