Alumna Camper Meridith Bradford, aka “Mer,” started attending camp at Double H Ranch through the Adaptive Winter Sports Program when she was 6 years old. For the next 15 years, Mer participated in both the summer and winter programs until she graduated the Alumni program at the age of 21. Meridith is now completing an internship with Disabled Sports USA, an organization that provides over 40 different sports and recreational opportunities to wounded warriors, youth and adults with disabilities, to satisfy her requirements of a Sports Management degree from the University of Illinois.
“I first started coming to the ski program when I was six years old. My grandparents lived in Glens Falls, New York and my grandfather, “Poppy”, who would come to visit the ski weekends with me sometimes, got something in the mail about camp and told my mom that it might be something good for me. To this day, I thank Poppy for getting me started in something that has shaped so much of my life. He passed away about 4 years ago now and I dedicate much of my success in skiing and otherwise to him and my camp family.” Here’s what Meridith shared with us about her time at Double H Ranch:
How many years did you attend camp and in what programs?
I was in the ski program for 14 years from the age of six until I left for college in Illinois at 19. I did a lot of ski weekends and also went on trips to Gore, Whiteface for the Empire State Games and Windham. I was in the summer program for seven years as a regular camper from the age of 10 until I graduated at 16 and then I was an alumni camper from 17 to 21 and was able to attend four of those five years.
What was it like to grow up coming to camp? What did it mean to you?
Growing up going to camp meant everything to me! The connections that I made over the years truly made it feel like a home and a family. As soon as I was on the grounds, I always felt very happy and like nothing else in the world even existed. No matter what, I never felt that having CP even crossed my mind and I was never limited by anything. Camp was a place where I could escape and be myself with the greatest support system I have ever had. Whether it was skiing or going to camp, going to HH was always what I looked forward to. As I got older, it became more about the people than anything else. My friends were always there for me, no matter how far away we were, but physically being back with them and feeling the magic of camp after a period of time was the greatest thing! To this day, I draw so much strength from my memories at camp and the friendships I still have.
Do you have a favorite memory?
I have countless amazing memories at camp and it is so hard to pick a favorite! Especially when I was older, I always had lots of great one-on-one talks with my counselors. One that comes to mind is when I was 21 and graduating alumni. I had known Pat Lynch, who I call Hop, since I was 11 and he was a constant for me in the summers. I was having a really hard time with the idea of leaving camp and on the last day I would ever be a camper, I remember him taking me aside and reassuring me that HH would always be a part of me. Through the years, we played a lot of basketball together and Hop told me that day that we had to play one last game. It turned out that he got a bunch of my friends together and organized a surprise game for me. It made me so happy to have so many people there doing something we all loved doing for so long. It really showed me that even though I was graduating, my friends were always going to be there for me. Hop has definitely held on to his promise and we are still very much in touch.
Tell us about someone who made a difference in your experience.
Again, it is extremely difficult for me to pick just one person, since so many people from HH have had such a huge impact on me! The first person that comes to mind as far as making a difference during my time at camp is Mac (Kate McPhillips). We did not meet until I was 16, but I believe that was the perfect time. With that summer in the Bear cabin being my last before transitioning to alumni, it was a very special and important one for me. We actually met because both of us were wearing Red Sox gear the first day and this has continued to be a big part of our friendship now. Mac was always willing to help me with whatever I needed, especially taking me for walks when I had something in my head I needed to talk about. We both love music and she helped me with some of the lyrics I have written, including the one I read for the talent show when I graduated alumni. Mac also came to camp when I came skiing and got to know my family well in the process of all of this. It seems like she has been there for so many significant moments for me and it’s all thanks to camp.
Meridith recently participated in The Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado. Ski Spec is one of the nation’s largest winter sports festivals for people with disabilities. This year, Meridith became the first bi-skier with tethers and fixed outriggers to ever race in the Level I sanctioned course at a national event. “It was a huge honor for me and something I have worked extremely hard for,” said Meridith. “I have been skiing for 18 years now and I dedicate everything I have accomplished back to Double H for giving me the start of it all!”
Thank you, Meridith, for sharing with us about your time at Double H Ranch! Please stay tuned throughout the year as we share more stories from our camp friends. Would you like to share your camp story? Submit it here!