In today’s world, we are inundated with stories showcasing the darkness of life. Covid-19. Hundreds of thousands of lives being taken by a virus we do not understand. The disgraceful withdrawal from Afghanistan. The 20th commemoration of 9/11. Our political parties at each other’s throats. Extremism on both the far left and the far right dominating news channels. A hurricane devastating not just New Orleans and the state of Louisiana but slamming into the Northeast as well.
Fear, depression and sorrow strengthening its icy grip around us, strangling us, choking away our joy, our hope for the future. And perhaps we are right to wonder if hope has been taken from us.
And yet, just when you might believe that we have forgotten how to believe, how to hope, how to embrace a future of greater promise, one man comes along, one man with vision, with an incredibly naïve hope that our future can be different. A seemingly ordinary man. But, a man with vision.
That one man with vision reached out to others, others whom he thought may also dare to believe. Others who may have also been called to protect the weak and the vulnerable. This one man chose to bring his dream, his vision to life … and so, Camp Wonderment was born.
Dr. Joan Le and San Diego’s Rady’s Children’s Hospital believed in the Camp Wonderment approach so much that they agreed to be hosting experts for Camp Wonderment’s first beta camp. Dr. Le selected 6 children between the ages of 8-12 all of whom had limb differences for Camp Wonderment’s Beta 1 – Circus Camp.
Jean-Luc Martin, long time creative/business partner and founder of the world famous San Diego Circus Center agreed to host Camp Wonderment’s camp. The idea was to blend their “hero’s journey” approach with his existing coaching style during a summer circus camp. This Circus was specifically selected for the physical nature of their represented “population” – children with limb differences.
Most of the campers were born with their physical conditions and so were accustomed to their limb differences. But as this one man spoke with the parents of each nominated child, he began to understand that they had all recently experienced an event that was traumatic. One young boy fell at school and was knocked unconscious in front of the entire school because he doesn’t have arms. He couldn’t catch himself. An 11 year old girl was attacked by an adult neighbor which left her afraid to even leave her house.
Each child had an experience that lowered their consciousness to a point where they, for the first time, began to FULLY identify with their body and its perceived weaknesses.
So, this one man decided to move forward with resounding faith that he could raise enough money to pay for the camp and if by some unlikely reason he couldn’t raise it, then his wife and he would pay for the camp. It wasn’t but a few weeks before several Dallas area businesses began to express interest in sponsoring. Sponsorship dollars rolled in and this man’s vision became manifest.
In August 2021, that first camp became a reality. And as these incredible children at first slowly, and then with greater enthusiasm and courage began to embrace and overcome the obstacles before them, this one man began to see that it was not just the lives of these 6 children being changed, but their families as well.
Watching these kids come in on the first day, he saw many hiding their limb differences. Several other campers did not even have sufficient means to bring food for lunches or snacks.
For five days, these kids had the personal attention of professionally trained circus artists, gymnasts, dancers, clowns and coaches. Each day as this one man walked the floor he heard coaches talking with the children about how to handle fear, failure and doubt.
This one man knows we all talk about these things with our children, but we are not the ones getting them to fall backwards from a 10 foot drop with no arms or legs… These children needed more. They needed a sense of community. A sense of being not just accepted, but embraced. They needed to find a way to trust. And this man was overwhelmed when he saw that trust beginning to grow. In his words, “THE TRUST WAS ASTONISHING!”
Symbolic therapeutic work which was designed to mimic their recent challenges for managing fear and doubt resulted in life altering experiences.
This one man’s vision for Camp Wonderment’s is simply this: If you are afraid of falling, then let’s go learn how to fly. If you are afraid to leave the house, then let’s be clowns in a show in front of 150 people! Each child began to stand a little bit straighter, smile brighter and get WAY more sweaty than the day before. These kids worked hard and then came the grand finale … the show!
Friday at 2:30 the lights went up as the campers, along with others, performed in front of over 150 friends and family. It was truly amazing. Each parent expressed similar sentiments of shock and amazement that their children could, and would, do the things they had just done.
This one man and his volunteers did it! In one week they were able to transmute what was potentially one of the defining moments of these young lives into a catalyst that brought them out of their shells and RETURNED to them a resolute spirit.
Now, this one man and his vision, Camp Wonderment, are excited to announce their 2nd Beta camp will be this winter in Dallas, Texas. And this time, the focus population will include children suffering from eating disorders and children whose parents are serving 30 years or longer in prison.
This one man embraced the power of hope, the power of one man. The belief that one person can change the world by providing hope.
This one man, this one man who has chosen to believe, who must leave the world a better place than what it was when he came into it is reaching out his hand to children facing incredible obstacles. This one man of hope.
This one man is Damian Skinner. A dear man. A dear friend. A person who embodies all that I wish I could be. This is the start of Damian’s vision and hope for the future …