Thursday, August 28, 2014

Healing Waters - Then and Now - A Flashback to Badger Day Camp

The heat and pushing myself hard in training were "kicking my butt" this week. I probably would have been best served by taking a rest day on Monday but I got in my miles and took it nice and slow. I took a rest day on Tuesday and was still feeling tired going into Wednesday Find Your Aquatics Strength Class at Spaulding Rehab but once I got into the pool, I could feel the fatigue melt away. We had some free swim time before everyone arrived. I enjoyed that time to take time to do what my body needed to feel revived.

Our therapist put us through our paces including a new exercise to help us with balance.

"If it was easy, you wouldn't be here," she offered and reminded us this was a hard exercise. "Don't get frustrated. It's okay."

I was realizing the profound difference between my right and left sides. She offered a modification to accommodate the difference in my two sides.

After we did our circuit she asked if we wanted to go for a swim and handed out kick boards. Coincidentally, our therapist had been a camp counselor.

I told her I was having a flashback - a very happy flashback to when I was at Badger Day Camp.

Badger was a camp for all abilities. After one unsuccessful try at Day Camp, my physiatrist who was working with me after I contracted paralytic polio suggested Badger which had swimming at the center of its daily activities.

Its history dates to 1945 ...

Badger Day Camp was founded in 1945 by Ruth and Jack Collins. Jack and Ruth had been operating programs for kids under the Badger name throughout Westchester County and they were ready to find a permanent location for their Badger programs. After some searching, Badger found a home at 119 Rockland Ave, Larchmont, NY and Badger Day Camp was born. Since then, the Collins family has been running the day camp and have continued the founding philosophy of offering a wide variety of quality programs for kids, in a fun and safe environment, for over 60 years!

At the heart of our campus is an Olympic sized pool. Campers get to jump in twice daily. Pool time is split between instruction and free swim to ensure a ton of fun every day! Before and after camp hours, the pool is often filled with our Badger Swim Team, led by internationally recognized Swim Coach, John Collins Jr. who has produced Olympians, American and National record holders and world champions all who have come out of this pool! It is not unusual for campers to catch a glimpse, or even meet, some of our former or current team members, especially during our swim demo days.

I was blessed to have Joseph Stetz as my swimming counselor. He chose to not follow his dream to become an Olympian and instead became a physician. I'm sure he blessed many lives in his career. Joseph gave me the support and encouragement I needed to compete in the butterfly during the Camp Olympics. I write about him in my post, "The Courage to Start." He told me that there were only two other campers willing to compete in the heat and if I didn't compete, they would have to cancel the race. At first I was reluctant to compete but he assured me he would coach me and train me for the event. He took individual time with me to teach me how to jump off the starting block and do turns in the pool. I didn't know it at the time, but he was also training me mind, body and Spirit and that training would hold me in good stead as I faced the challenge of post polio syndrome in my later years. Every time I have the courage to step up to a starting line, I think of Joseph. I just now decided that I am going to dedicate my Tufts 10K race to him.

He died in a single car accident shortly after his retirement from St. Elizabeth's Hospital right here in Brighton. As the synchronicity of my life would have it, I worked at St. E's as a geriatric social worker on the inpatient psych unit when he worked there as a cardiothoracic surgeon. We could have passed each other in the halls.

And last night as I took the kick board and did laps, the feeling of freedom and joy I can feel so easily in the water, returned to my mind, body and soul. I remembered my days at Badger that provided a healing balm to all that I had been through in my 10 short years of living. Although I could only spend two summers at Badger because the following year I had to go into a full leg cast on my right leg, those memories live on in my heart forever. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, I am blessed to return to healing waters where I find my strength, my freedom and my joy in Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab.

"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.

I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.

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