Camperships Change Lives
My name is Josh Burger, and I have a rare skeletal condition, known as Atelosteogenesis III, which has misshaped my bones and dislocated my joints. As a result of my condition, I am on oxygen twenty-four hours a day, and I get around on electronic scooter. While it is hard for people who know me now to believe, I didn’t speak until I was five years old – doctors thought I couldn’t until they gave me hearing aids and realized that I didn’t speak simply because I had never heard anyone else do it. Now I talk all the time! Making up for lost time, I guess.
I was 16 when I first attended The Painted Turtle’s summer session for kids with skeletal dysplasia—an experience that changed my life. At first I couldn’t believe there could be a place like this for me. I thought only “normal” kids, like my brothers, got to go to camp. I had never been away from my family before. Ever. Who would take care of me? What would I do there?
The Painted Turtle was a revelation. For the first time in my life, no one stared at me. There were other campers with skeletal conditions, other kids in wheelchairs. Together, we felt like regular kids doing regular kid-stuff. I felt carefree and independent. I felt like I could do anything. I felt like I belonged.
The next summer I came back for a week as a Leader-in-Training camper. My counselors coached me through special team-building, communication, and leadership activities and taught me how to be a mentor to the younger campers. At The Painted Turtle, I developed so much self-confidence just by trying new things with the support and encouragement of my cabin-mates and counselors.
It’s funny, at camp, no one treated me like I was different, which taught me not to let my differences hold me back. Now I am 23 years old. I’m studying communications in college. I do public speaking. I’m now a person who sees possibility where I once saw limitations. Camp did that.
I’ll be back at The Painted Turtle this summer, volunteering as a counselor for my fifth year in a row. It’s a tremendous responsibility to take care of campers – to understand each child’s needs, to inspire and empower them to try new things, and above all, make them laugh and have fun for one unforgettable week a year.
Looking back on all that camp taught me about challenging myself and embracing new things, I’m going to do everything I can to give as many kids as I can the same opportunity. I hope you do too.
Camperships Keep Camp Free of Charge
Camp will always be free of charge. Campership gifts support the costs of food, housing, medical care, and of course fun for our campers.
Your gift can be made in memory of a loved one or in honor of a birthday, anniversary or special occasion of a family member or friend. If your gift is a tribute to someone, please include a note telling us the name of the individual you wish us to notify along with their address so that we can send them a card letting them know of your thoughtful gift. (The amount will not be mentioned.)
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The Painted Turtle is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with Federal Tax ID# 95-4612481. All charitable contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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Camperships at The Painted Turtle