Never say Never…
Is the name of a foundation for limb different families based in the US. It isn’t just a slogan it’s actually a way of life for the children and the volunteers I met at their pirate camp earlier this month.
From the child with no limbs who went sailing, to the volunteer with no arms who happily used his feet to kayak. From the toddler eating pizza and belting out baby shark, to Papa Joe amongst the older volunteers who was running the safety boat. To the sailors with and without limb differences who took children out to one tree island where marooned pirates were waving plastic axes to defend their treasure. To the captain of the pontoon boat who ferried the ‘pirates’ aka the parents around the sail boats to attack their children with water and somehow ended up wetter than the children…nothing was impossible.
Families, with every limb difference you could think of, many with more than one type of difference, Paralympic athletes, iron men, professors, company CEOs, fundraisers, artists – all with one aim in mind – to show these children that anything is possible and that there are no limits.
I’m used to being around limb different children and thought I’d be ok. I was until Friday morning when I ‘lost it’ listening to Sam; the most energetic enthusiastic person you could ever meet, who ran the morning warmups known at camp as ‘Sam Jam time’ The children were standing in a circle dancing, when it came to their turn they would dance in the middle. It was completely optional and their choice to join the circle but when it came to his turn one young man froze and said he couldn’t do it. I watched Sam, who was completely at ease, talk to the boy. He didn’t say he had to do it, he didn’t say he was ok to drop out and not do it. He said ‘hold my hand and I’ll do it with you, you aren’t on your own and you have nothing to fear’ He did it – the whole circle cheered him on and I’m not ashamed to say I cried.
Families travelled from all over the US, along with our team LimbBo contingent from Barnsley. Tommy stood up and helped Sammi, the founder and CEO of Open Bionics do a presentation about the Hero Arm (I may have cried again just a bit)
LJ loved sailing and created treasure chests, clay necklaces and several mermaid bags. They met friends from previous camps, they sailed, kayaked, were rescued from sailing too close to the pier, they hugged Linda and Michelle like the special adults and members of the family they now are.
LJ is traumatised and will never order ketchup in a restaurant again, but it was a good-natured eruption of sauce bottles, laughter and the award-winning acting performance of a cross chef.
I Learnt so much. You don’t need hands to be a photographer, to drive, to kayak. You don’t need two legs to dance, play volleyball, run, sail, dance. Never say never means just that – if you can’t do ‘it’ yet than we will help you find a way and support you until you can do ‘it’. It’s up to you then to mentor the next generation and show them what they are capable of. I watched, I took mental snapshots ( as well as a couple of thousand of photographs) to help us improve LimbBo. As charities we were forging links and working out how we can be stronger together.
The highlight of the camp is the Saturday evening pirate party. There are no words to describe the range of emotions- these children (and adults) know how to party! The costumes are elaborate, the dance moves are expressions of joy. The ceremony where blades are presented reveals every emotion from disbelief, joy, gratitude, pride – there were tears, there was laughter there were memories being made.
As someone who knows how much hard work and planning goes into events like this, I applaud you all. Never Say Never is the belief instilled in these children, they know they have support and that they are loved. I may sleep for a week, but the memories are priceless.