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Camp Experience Extends Beyond Summer for One Rhodes Student

Publication Date: 6/1/2011

It’s time for summer camps all over the country, but on at least one Friday afternoon every month during the fall and spring semesters, Lindsey Bierle ′12 drives to Little Rock, Ark. to serve as a counselor at Camp Aldersgate. Camp Aldersgate is a non-profit organization for children with physical disabilities and developmental delays. Through outdoor educational and recreational activities, counselors and volunteers work with children with over 40 different disabilities. The camp’s slogan is “Common Ground for Extraordinary People.”

“I think that slogan is really fitting because these kids are amazing,” says Bierle. “They go beyond their disabilities, and that is what I love about camp. All of our activities, like archery, canoeing and the ropes course, are fitted so that no matter what disability a child may have, they can have an enjoyable camp experience.”

Bierle began her work at camp as a volunteer the summer after graduating high school in 2008. “I volunteered for a couple weeks and absolutely fell in love with the kids,” says Bierle. “I went in with the attitude that I would be there to help them, but it turned out that they were the ones helping me just by showing me how they can overcome obstacles every day.”

With aspirations of pursuing a career in health professions, Bierle adds she was interested in the medical aspect of the camp. Although volunteers act as friends and companions for the campers, a counselor’s responsibilities involve more medically-oriented tasks, including G-tube feedings and wheelchair transfers, she explains. After that summer experience, Bierle also was hired to be a counselor for Respite camp, which is the weekend camp of Camp Aldersgate.

As a counselor, Bierle is trained in CPR and first aid and sleeps in the cabins with the campers to be available if assistance is needed. “We really work on a personal level with the kids,” she says. “I get to see a lot of the same children over and over again, and so I’ve watched them grow up. That has really been great.”

Along with making the trip to Little Rock throughout the semester, Bierle is heavily involved with extra-curricular activities at Rhodes. A biology major, she has served as president of Beta Beta Beta, the biological honor society, and has worked as teaching assistant in the biology department. She also has been a volunteer at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The MED) as a burn unit coordinator. Although Bierle says it is sometimes challenging to balance all of her schoolwork, activities, and camp, she remains committed to her job as a counselor throughout the year.

“I’ve always wanted to go to medical school, and being a counselor has shown me that working with kids is what I need to be doing in life,” says Bierle. “I feel like these kids have given so much to me, and I want to be able to give back to them somehow.” Bierle also wants to spread the word about camp to prospective volunteers. “Every time I go to camp, I learn something new or a child will teach me something different. These are pretty wonderful kids.”

(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Lucy Kellison ′13)

Tags: Service, Students

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