Remember your summer job? Is there a lesson you learned or an experience that helped shape your future? Summer experiences are often full of learning about the world, other people and yourself. Often these experiences are influenced through a personal connection.
Kaitlynn Rothwell’s twin brother, Christian has received services through Rainbows all of their 21 years. She applied to work at Camp Woodchuck because she knew what it takes to care for her brother and other kids in his classroom. “Being a Direct Support Professional at Camp is different than being at home,” said Kaitlynn. “Here it’s 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. straight. It is a lot more activities and a lot more interaction for him with his friends.”
Kaitlynn enjoys seeing her brother having fun, smiling, and trying to do new things, even when he can’t fully complete the task. “I get a rewarding feeling because I’m helping people who can’t help themselves all the way or all the time,” she says. “Rainbows means there are people to help take care of and open up experiences for others, like Christian and my family. This summer I’ve seen his world in a new light. It’s been worthwhile hard work.”
There’s no doubt Christian loves seeing his sister at Camp. He lights up when she’s in the room and her presence gives him that extra feeling of security like only a twin can do. (Kaitlynn and Christian are pictured above).
This summer Rainbows has been fortunate to have many summer staff members with ties to the Agency. Ellie Van Zelfden, a sophomore at Hutchinson Community College studying medicine and/or education, heard about the summer job at Camp Woodchuck through her mother, Kathy, a Mental Health Specialist serving children birth to three through Rainbows. “I applied to gain valuable kid and special needs experience,” said Ellie. “I wanted a summer job that would be meaningful and impactful.” What she found was a unique opportunity to connect with youth, help them navigate the world and make a difference in their lives.
“I’ve really enjoyed going out in the community on field trips and doing activities with the kids,” she said. Her favorite activity from this summer was the monumental shaving cream fight where everyone gets covered in the white stuff. “It starts small, the kids love it and before you know, everyone is covered, laughing, smelling squeaky clean and having the time of their lives. It is epic!”
Kathy, Ellie’s Mom says, “Ellie has experienced personal and professional growth as a Direct Service Professional (DSP) at Camp Woodchuck. She’s learned various ways to communicate and interact with people of varying abilities. These Camp experiences will be memories she carries as she continues her college education.”
A student in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program at Washburn University, Cara Brockmeyer applied to work at Camp Woodchuck this summer when her mother, Mindy suggested it. “Cara has always had a servant heart,” said Mindy, a Rainbows’ Early Childhood Special Education Teacher. “I am proud to see her putting her skills to use at Camp. I know she has learned a lot.”
Cara is glad she applied. “Working as a DSP has been a great opportunity to gain experience working with children with special needs especially because it relates to my future career as an OTA,” she said. “I love working one on one with the kids, seeing them learn new skills, and have a great time with the Camp activities.” Cara shares that one of her favorite memories was when some Disney music was turned on for one child and the whole class joined in for a full-on dance party with many smiles and giggles.
Cara believes her experiences have given her new insights in how each child has unique talents and interests, and when those interests like dancing, singing, swinging, etc. are incorporated, the kids’ personalities shine. “My summer Camp Woodchuck experiences have given me insights into my chosen career that I could not have had through other positions.”
When Kourtney Hawkins came home from college in Alabama for the summer, her dad, Carlis, Rainbows’ bus driver and courier, mentioned summer opportunities working with children at Rainbows. “I was looking for a job that would allow me to grow both personally and professionally doing something that I am passionate about,” said Kourtney. “My dad always has positive things to share, especially about how amazing the kids are and how wonderful it is to be able to see their growth. I was inspired by his stories and decided to give it a shot this summer.”
She says being a DSP at Camp Woodchuck allowed her to be an integral part of making a difference in the lives of youth and creating memories for the kids as well as herself that will last a lifetime. She expanded her knowledge and experience in working with children, her desired career field. “I had the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone by exploring my natural talents and gifts plus learning so much more first-hand about youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Kourtney.
“I was impressed at how everyone is truly passionate about services,” she notes. “My co-workers have been so supportive of me while I transitioned my way into a new environment and experience. I would recommend this experience to others.”
“Kourtney wasn’t sure about working at Camp, but she stuck with it and the experiences she’s had have made a big impression on her,” said Carlis.
Whether it’s that hands-on experience or helping a child overcome their struggles, this summer has been one of learning and growing both for Campers, staff and their families making summer memories of a lifetime.