On Friday, I attended GLAHM Camp at Shriners Hospital in Philly. GLAHM Camp, which stands for Good Life and Healthy Minds, is an annual, day-long camp for teenage girls with spinal cord injuries. I was really touched that they asked me to participate even though I am a bit on the older side — 25 this week … yikes!
It was a jampacked day filled with healthy cooking (my hand got a serious workout chopping tomatoes), working out with a physical therapist, talking about all things SCI-related, and learning a Rollettes-inspired dance. The Rollettes are a wheelchair dance team that aims to “empower women with disabilities to live boundlessly and shift perspectives through dance.” I can’t say I was the best dancer of the bunch, but it definitely got me out of my comfort zone!
A guest speaker named Bryn came and talked to us about mental health, which, of course, is extremely important. She’s been injured for a long time, lives in Philly, and is my age, so we swapped numbers. I feel like I could learn a lot from her and always love making new connections!
Having a spinal cord injury is obviously tough at any age but can be really hard for young adults wanting to be free and independent like their able-bodied friends. During some downtime at the event, the girls and I talked about accessibility issues at their schools, their problems in gym class, and the possible struggles they might face when they go off to college, especially since some colleges are cutting funding and not providing aides anymore. Even though they were younger, most of the girls had been injured much longer than me. It opened my eyes to all of the challenges teenagers face growing up and going through school with a disability. All of the little things I never thought of back then (but now have to) — Is there an elevator close by in case of a fire drill? Is the handicapped bathroom stall big enough for my wheelchair? — are looming in the back of their minds while trying to learn trigonometry. That can’t be easy.
Despite the adversity they face, the girls I had the privilege of meeting all have big dreams and they don’t let their wheelchairs hold them back. I learned a lot from my new friends and found each one of them inspiring. Their spirits reinforced to me that anything is possible, even if you’re in a wheelchair.
Shriners also holds another camp for young adults that deals with getting out into the community and becoming independent again in the spring. I’m all about that — so sign me up!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around GLAHM Camp for makeovers and dinner, but it was a really fulfilling day and an awesome event for girls with spinal cord injuries to come together.
Thank you for including me, Shriners!