I know, it sounds like I am going to start belting “We are the Champions… no time for loooosers ‘cuz we are the champions… of the world”…. but you would be wrong. I am referring to a program, or I guess family, joined just after Madeline passed. Matthew walked into the Guilderland YMCA that week after Madeline died and was told by Karen “Don’t worry about anything here, you are a part of Champs and we’ll help your family”. He came home and told me we were a part of the Champs program now… I was like “what is the Champs program???” … then life moved and I forgot and we got busy and my brain didn’t really think about it. A few months later we were invited to Champs Camp… and I was finally learning that it was actually called CDYMCA Circle of Champs and was run by this amazing and energetic Sandy . I started to understand, in all of my fog, that the Circle of Champs was a program for kids who were faced with illnesses, their siblings and their families. It was more than a camp, more than a program… it was a family.
At the first Champs event the girls and I attended, a BBQ, we had so much fun. I met so many families and kids and laughed and danced and ate too much (no joke the ice cream truck came…). I also met Laurel. I remember Karen (the director then) introducing me to Myles mom, and knowing that Myles had the same tumor as Madeline. Laurel had been dancing with Myles and just was a ball of energy. I was nervous to go up to her, being that I had the daughter that died of the same tumor. She hugged me… and she told me “Ill need you on the other side”. She wasn’t scared of me because my daughter died, she wasn’t nervous to say the wrong thing. In fact, I was in a BBQ party of many people who weren’t scared to hug me, talk to me and didn’t treat me like I was ‘worst case scenario’. My girls were surrounded by awesome kids and families with crazy journeys- just like our and not the same at all. Every.single.family in that room was impacted by life threatening disease or conditions… all of us were on equal ground. I realized that night what being a Champ was, what Circle of Champs is.
After a week of camp, of tired and happy Musto Girls we had our BBQ tonight. There is always great food, great music, smiles, photos, dancing… just living. No one there was the same, but in some way were all equal. We were all laughing and enjoying and sharing time, experiences and life. This week my girls were surrounded by friends that were travelling and fighting their own crazy journey, battling their fight, building back up… but they didn’t.even.notice. It wasn’t about that. It was all about sunny days and camp activities and crafts and swim… teamwork activities and field trips. It was all about being a kid, just the regular, sometimes complicated, kid that each of the Champs are. I felt like it wasn’t about their differences, but it was about each of them and their own selves… My girls had a great week.
I told the girls as we were walking up to the SUPER decorated pavilion, that this is their party. This is a party just for Champs, that this was a special night just for the Circle of Champs families to enjoy together. It was a gift from the CDYMCA and a lot of kind volunteers to my girls and the other Champs campers. That is what Circle of Champs is- a gift. It is a special and safe place for all of these kids, all of these crazy journeys, all of the hard stuff they all face- to come together and enjoy some time… to come together and smile, live, breathe, run, laugh, share, cry or not… to be the special person that this journey has made them in a safe place that honors and supports that. We are Champs. I am so thankful for the CDYMCA for working so hard to build this program and support this family… it is so amazing, special and necessary.
If you know a family in the Capital Region who could qualify for Champs, bug me. I know what this family has been for us… it could be amazing for others too.
Here is a bit of tonight and my crazy, silly, bold and sugared up Musto Champs. (#ymca #cdymca #circleofchamps)