Today was the last day of music camp for the kids. The end of camp performance, Zeus Lost in Cleveland featured none other than Riley O’Neil in the female lead role of the Greek Goddess Herra. This morning, she woke up early and insisted I paint her fingernails gold, and curl her hair, and paint golden glitter into her locks. As I got her all dolled up, I held my breath, remembering the stage fright debacle of Easter 2010. HT assured me it would be okay.
And it was!
Riley nailed every line. She was the star of the show! This little girl who was so scared last year at camp, strutted out there with nothing but excitement. This is an inclusive camp, but the majority of campers are typicals. What is striking to me about it, is the special needs kids aren’t off to the side, letting the “popular” kids shine. They are truly included. Seeing Riley, (and another girl, and a boy with autism), be right in there, part of the whole thing, Riley leading the whole thing, …that these kids get a turn, a chance to really, really shine… I had to hand HT my camera because I simply couldn’t take it.
Can you feel the lump in my throat?
The dance teacher, Erin,(who also teaches Riley’s therapeutic dance class throughout the year) cried with me afterward, saying Riley is exactly the reason she does what she does for a living. She was so very proud of our girl.
Riley’s aide Ms. Marilyn makes camp possible for our daughter. She cares deeply about children. We are so very blessed to have her in Riley’s life. A better advocate would be impossible to come by. She knows when to hang back, and when Riley needs support. She navigates seamlessly behind the scenes paving the way for Riley and allowing her space to soar. She’s been working with special needs kids for over 20 years. She is the best.
Seth the proud brother was part of the performance as well. His first year at this camp, he was in the background, part of the younger kids ensemble. As campers get more seniority they get more challenging parts.
It was just four weeks, half day. Next year both kids want to go full day. Riley has dreams of one day becoming a camp counselor.
Her dance teacher told her she should become a counselor, and that she posesses a lot of leadership qualities already.
And I saw Riley take those words into her heart.
We’d have loved her no less had she run from the room afraid, but it feels so good when she has positive experiences like this.
Here is just a snippet of our little Goddess, thriving.