Camper Stories: Meet the Dadey Family

We are family.

Cue Sister Sledge — we’re going to take a few minutes to sing the praises of family. All kinds and all the time. Because no matter the size, structure or setting, family is critical to all of us in navigating this big, messy, and utterly amazing world.

Dadey Family in front of rock wall
The Dadey Family at Spina Bifida Family Weekend in 2019

Getting to know incredible families is one of the advantages of being part of Double H, and the Dadeys of Syracuse is an example of just how lucky we are. The family of five — 14-year-old Maeve, two older sisters, and parents Joan and Tom — first came to the Ranch in 2019 for Spina Bifida Family Weekend.

Joan’s first impression is one she’ll always remember. “We arrived for our first Spina Bifida Family Weekend and were greeted by Mama D (aka Nancy Driscoll) who showed us around, made sure we got some food after a long drive and got us settled in our room. We were stunned with the beauty of the Ranch and the warmth and love from the first minute. Mama D was the ultimate buddy!”

camper using a wheelchair helps at ropes courseFor Maeve, this visit marked her first encounter with a ropes course. “I was afraid to do the zip line. I watched my sisters, my dad and my mom do it. Then I took the ‘elevator ride’ to the top of the zip line and loved every minute of going down. Everyone was so nice and cheered me on. I was never afraid at camp again.”

Since that first visit, camp has become an important part of Maeve’s life. She has participated in numerous Double H programs, including winter, virtual, and summer camp. “It is hard to have a disability and not always be able to do things like other kids. At camp, the counselors, volunteers, and nurses make sure you can do anything and everything you want to do.” These experiences have helped Maeve grow. “Camp was the first time I was away from my parents, so I had to speak up for myself, tell others what I needed and wanted, and make sure that I was safe and took good care of myself.”

As parents of a child with complex medical issues, inclusion and socialization are both extremely important to Joan and Tom, and they see Double H as a place where campers learn to advocate for themselves. “Kids see their worth in all activities, learn social skills while gaining confidence and advocacy skills. All of this is done at no cost which is vital to children and their families. There is no place where kindness exists like Double H Ranch. It is the kindest place I have ever visited.”

camp nurses smile while sitting in rocking chairs

These values are a big reason why Joan put her career skills to work as a camp nurse. An RN, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Assistant Professor of Nursing at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, NY, Joan was excited to give back. “I love giving direct care to the campers. Using my nursing skills set to keep the kids happy and healthy benefits me greatly in that I know my help keeps the kids’ needs met at camp. Believe me, I gain more personal benefit as a volunteer than I give to the campers. I leave camp feeling happy, needed, loved and exhausted but in the very best way possible.” She adds, “Without a doubt, the Double H volunteer experience has been the most rewarding of my career.”

winter student in bi ski smiles with dad and ski instructor

The Dadeys have also attended Family Ski Weekends, a program Tom is hoping to get more involved with. “Family programs allow us to be with other families, and all of their children, in the one place that allows inclusion for every member of the family. Our older daughters are able to socialize with kids who know the challenges of having a sibling with a complex medical condition(s). The acceptance, inclusion, love, and absolute magic of Double H had us on our first day at the Ranch. It is incredible to meet other parents who understand our story and have lived it themselves.”

Family support is vital, and it comes in many different forms. Whether through programs, volunteerism, or benefaction, every effort makes an impact. It’s a critical factor that the Dadeys acknowledge. “Very simply put, there is no better investment than supporting a camp that lives its mission every day. Not only are children with complex medical issues placed as the most important priority, the camp also invests in training counselors and volunteers to meet the needs of campers. That investment in the next generation of caregivers and philanthropists is indeed what will keep these young adults engaged in the betterment of this world. Last but certainly not least, I know that camp instills confidence in the campers. That confidence then translates to school, college, and work/career. There is simply no way to measure the “reach” of camp and its impact on staff, volunteers, counselors, and campers.”

We agree, and that’s why we are so thankful for families like the Dadeys and for people like you. You are an invaluable member of the Double H family. The simple truth is that we couldn’t be there for so many if you weren’t there for us. With your help, we support, challenge, celebrate, advocate, include, and give back — because that’s what family does.