Cool As a Cute Little Cucumber

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. 


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24 Responses to Cool As a Cute Little Cucumber

  1. Oh! A lump in my throat as well! And yes, thriving is definitely the word. So amazing!

  2. joy says:

    this one made me cry. Thank you for sharing. Amazing.

  3. Way to go Riley I am so happy for you!

  4. kario says:

    Ask and you shall receive. So pleased that the camp went so well and that these angels continue to put themselves in the path of your family over and over.


  5. Chris Vartorella says:

    I don’t know who I’m more impressed with, Riley, Seth, Michelle, Todd, the counselors… the dance teacher… beautiful… thank you for sharing …

  6. Meg says:

    You have an amazing daughter and I am so glad you have found a place where she gets the appropriate support so she can shine as she is meant to! Keep this memory handy for those days….

  7. Carrie Link says:

    CANNOT STAND IT! Nothing could be more made than this! And next year FULL days? And someday a counselor? I can see it. Perfectly.


  8. Chloes Mom Mary says:

    Oh my goodness! I am so happy for Riley, Seth too. I know exactly how you feel as we had our own camp success with a certain someone just two weeks ago!


  9. Lydia says:

    I only wish that I could have watched more of the performance! Nothing short of a fabulous job!

  10. Amanda says:

    Riley for counsellor! YAY!! 😀

    The performance, the face paint, the whole thing — just brilliant!

  11. Kelli says:

    I have the lump in my throat too! Along with goosebumps straight from my heart and some tears of joy…OMG…love, love, love!

  12. Deb says:

    So much hope and happiness here. I’m really glad for you all. Wishing I could be a camper at this camp!

  13. Courtney says:

    So happy for her

  14. Kathi says:

    Yes, thriving. Oh, Michelle, how proud you must be. Thanks for posting.

  15. Brian says:

    You go Riley!!! You did a great job…Got a lump in my throat and a tear of joy in my eye…Love ya so much

  16. K Fuller Yuba City says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t tell you how much joy your postings bring me! I never know whether I am going to tear up with my nose running, or laugh and wish there was someone next to me to share them with!

  17. Kim says:

    Love this Michelle. My eyes burned with tears as I read and imagined you handing the camera to HT!! Go Riley!

  18. mom says:

    You go girl!!!!! Awesome job Riley.
    Tears in my eyes, joy in my heart, lump in my throat for all of you. Great big hugs to you all.

  19. drama mama says:

    This is as it should be.

  20. Jerri says:

    No words for how wonderful this is, how heartwarming.

    When the boy made that thunder sound, my heart was in my throat for Riley. But she didn’t even flinch.

    My, Oh, my.


  21. amber says:

    Yeah Riley!!!!!!!!!! You were so good, dollface!

    So happy about every little bit of this.


  22. naomi says:

    Awesome job Riley! You were so calm and focused! It looks like you really enjoyed it!

    And all those little American accents – so cute!

  23. What choo talkin’ about “American accents,” Naomi? Ay?

  24. These are such nice photographs of little girls and I like it very much.I like that goddess look very much and a girl looks so cute.I glad to know that Riley has done a good job.

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