Worth Every Mile
to Family Camp
In the summer of 2012, my daughter, Teanna, and I decided to check out the Annual Family Deaf Camp which is held at Hornby Island at the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre operated by Gord and Allison Campbell. I had learned about this particular event in the previous year, but declined to join due to work commitments, and frankly, the amount of travel involved was a bit daunting at first, especially when having to travel with a child. This year, however, I felt that I had enough camping experience under my belt to give me the confidence to attempt this adventure.
As we set off on our first further-away-from-home mother-daughter trip, I felt both excited and slightly nervous as I was not sure what to expect, especially around the issue of communication with other attendees. The apprehension stemmed from knowing that my experience with ASL was mostly comprised of communicating with a preschooler, and an extremely patient and forgiving instructor.
It took three ferry rides and roughly three hours of driving to get to camp. When we arrived, Teanna immediately noticed with excitement that some of her friends were already there. I was able to set up our site with the help of another family. The itinerary for the next three days consisted of activities in the daytime for both children and adults, and a group dinner followed by a gathering at the communal firepit. Daytime activities ranged from kayaking, rock climbing, yoga, ASL stories, and powerboat tours by our host, Gord. None of these activities are mandatory, but they are available to all, and are included in the Family Deaf Camp experience. There were also separately scheduled outings for moms/adult female attendees and dads/adult male attendees. The women were taken on a tour around the island and had the opportunity to shop at the local farmer’s market, while the men took a trip to the local pub. These provided great opportunities to make new acquaintances sans children. There is also a long stretch of white sand beach, where one can choose to stay and relax throughout the entire stay. At night, the gathering around the firepit was filled with entertainment provided by the camp counsellors, through comedic skits and stories which kept the audience engaged by encouraging participation from both children and adults.
The anxiety that I had initially felt regarding communication quickly subsided, as there was an ample amount of interpreters available, and they were very keen on making sure they were readily accessible when needed. There were interpreters present at each activity in the daytime, they circulated during dinner - which helped promote conversations and initiate budding relationships, and the evening programmes were always interpreted as well. This was the epitome of bridging the gap, and it added to the comfortable, inclusive atmosphere. It was literally as easy as calling out “I need an interpreter, please!” or discreetly motioning for one of them to approach you.
Introductions and housekeeping rules were made during the first communal gathering. It was here where I had an epiphany, and knew that I had made the right choice in coming here. Terry Maloney, the head counsellor at camp, had mentioned something that really resonated with me. He stated that the most important rule during our time here was that at this camp, everybody is to have equal opportunity to everything. This meant that no one was too young, too old, too small, or even too big to partake in any activity. I was glad to be in an environment that believed in and actively practiced equity, it made me feel welcome.
Attending Family Deaf Camp at Hornby Island was greatly beneficial to my daughter and I in many ways. We met many different families, and I feel that despite the uniqueness in each situation, we all still shared many things in common, and I felt such a sense of community. It was comforting to know that I was not alone in some of the fears and struggles I faced. It was inspiring to hear about and witness firsthand the successes from overcoming these. I met other mothers who were more seasoned in raising a Deaf child, and it had me looking forward to the journey ahead with my own daughter. It was exciting to learn that many of the talented camp counsellors had grown up attending this camp, and it resulted in lifelong friendships and cherished memories. What great role models and mentors for the children who were currently attending to have! In a short amount of time, I was able to watch my daughter blossom socially. Each night I would watch her march proudly to the front, participating in the nightly skits. At camp she was able to create new friendships, and strengthen existing ones! She seemed happy and confident, and was most definitely in her element. This is where Teanna will have her own memories of time spent with friends to look back on and cherish. Here, everyone looked out for one another - my daughter was safe. Everyone spoke, understood, and had access to ASL, Teanna’s first language. My daughter was respected. A parent cannot ask for anything more. To this day, photos or TV clips of beach and nature scenes trigger camping memories for Teanna, causing her to fondly recall the experience.
Three ferry rides and roughly three hours of driving. That is all it took for an amazing time. It was a learning experience, a social experience, and a bonding experience. It was well worth it, and we would do it all again in a heartbeat.