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"We are less when we don't include everyone."- Stuart Milk

Looking back over the year, there are so many precious memories to revisit, but one stands out special from the others.

We have a camper who has become a fixture at camp. He has some disabilities that make life more challenging for him in some ways. Fellow campers can sometimes get frustrated with him because he doesn't understand the rules of the game or because he can't keep up. It can be even harder because he doesn't understand that his friends are frustrated. I have to give our campers credit though, they have worked really hard to stand up for each other, be patient with each other, and create a culture of inclusion all on their own.

Every year, we have a talent show where no matter what your talent is you will probably get a standing ovation (peel an orange with one hand, recite the pi to 100 places, make yourself disappear, and so on). This year at our talent show, we had an eighth and a ninth grade camper playing emcee. They did such a great job making each camper feel like a star on stage and engaging the audience. When we got to our friend who can be hard to play with, he wanted to do ninja moves. He walked out on the stage and it was hard to tell what he was trying to do at first. The emcees, seeing the confusion got the crowd to chant his name, they let him pretend to knock them out, and gave his moves some really cool names so that the rest of camp could be encouraging and supportive.

This moment of inclusion and celebration makes me so proud. The emcees weren’t given any direction other than to announce upcoming acts. The audience was not told they had to cheer for every kid. Diversity and inclusion are really hard goals to achieve, but our youth are constantly reminding us that it is possible.

Annalisa KeipertComment