This past weekend I spent all of my time screaming songs, dancing, cheering, running, hiking, making about a million (or what felt like a million) late night trips to the bathroom, all the while shivering in the freezing temperatures. It turned out to be one of the coolest experiences I have had yet. I was the camp counselor for 5-8 year olds for Camp Laurel.
Camp Laurel was founded in 1993 by Margot Anderson with the hope of bettering the lives of children who are affected with HIV/AIDS, whether by they themselves being infected or by an immediate family member being affected. The camp is open to children ages 6-17 for the Summer and Teen camps, and for all ages including parents for the Winter Family camp. For the campers who apply and are accepted (campers must pass medical tests/physicals to come), the camp is completely free.
If there is one thing I would like to take from the camp and share with the world, it would be this: people who have HIV are no different than you or I. There were so many people at the camp that expressed that they wished everyone could experience Camp Laurel, because then they could see HIV for what it truly is. Instead, there is such a stigma about it. I heard stories of ostracism, stories of people who must moved because they are shunned by their families and their communities. Having HIV in and of itself is hard enough, let alone to lose family over it as well is really sad. The people I interacted with over the weekend were not contagious, were not promiscuous drug users, and were not untouchable. They were just like anyone else, and it was really unfortunate to see how much stigma still surrounds this virus.
After being more involved with Camp Laurel, I really support it’s cause and feel that it is a great organization to give support to, whether monetarily or time wise. They also have a bike ride from San Diego to Los Angeles which raises money for the cause if you would prefer to support in that way.
If you would like to become a camper, you can find all the information you need here.