Volunteer Voices: Finding New Ways to Make an Impact

As Double H Ranch pivoted to alternative Camp@HHome programming this summer, 20-25 volunteers per session would log on to help make the magic of camp come to life – virtually. For some of our volunteers, like Lisa D., this meant stepping out of their normal volunteer roles to help make the magic of camp possible. Lisa has been a volunteer camp nurse for 16 summer seasons at the Double H Ranch. She has volunteered in all seasons of camp, including being a Family Pal for the Winter, Spring and Fall Family weekends. We caught up with Lisa to see how volunteering virtually with our Camp@HHome programs from her hometown of Oneonta, NY made her still feel connected with camp.

camp at home materials

From your point of view, tell me us how alternative camp programming in 2020 is still making a difference for our campers.

Camp@HHome in its alternative format has continued to provide kids with programming, connections, and camp traditions. The year-round staff, summer staff, and volunteers have come together in amazing ways to continue camp rituals such as the songs at the camp fire, the pie ninja, and cabin chats. For returning campers, these are yearly highlights and things they count on to be part of the experience. For new campers they are learning the “routine” of camp so they can feel at home with Double H Ranch and part of the magic. 

As a volunteer, tell us how Camp@HHome has made an impact for you during these challenging times.

Much like it has for campers, being able to maintain connections and traditions of Double H has brought me peace and true joy. Volunteering at camp is part of my “normal” world and something I feel passionately about and look forward to between times there. We have all had to make huge adjustments to our way of living at the moment, but that does not mean that we have to give up the things we love or the ability to help others. Quite honestly, I have seen and found more ways to make an impact throughout the pandemic than prior to it.

Is there anything additional you’d like to say about the impact of virtual/alternative programming?

In-person camp is a loud vivacious environment that can be overwhelming to some campers. For some this can be intimidating, and they may not feel comfortable showcasing their talents in front of others. Through virtual camp, this group of individuals has the safety and comfort of home while participating in camp-life, leading them to be more willing to participate in activities they may not have done at camp. For example, there are campers who at on-site camp would not participate in the talent show, but online from home they are. It is so exciting to experience this happen and for campers to feel great about themselves – which is what camp is all about!

Also having a variety of people plan the activities every week, in coordination with the staff, has made for some fun and interesting programming. Having my traditional role at camp be nursing, activity planning was not anything I had been asked to do in the past. Taking on this challenge this summer really made me think differently and come out of my own creative shell.

Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement with camp? In providing inspiration?

My husband has always been completely supportive of my involvement in camp. Early on in my camp career, our 2 children would attend camp as nurse’s kids and our son was a qualified skier so my husband was able to experience camp in the winter. Now that they are older he still encourages me to volunteer whenever I can and cares for our son while I am at Double H.

My inspiration for camp is all of the campers. Whenever I am faced with a challenge in life, I think about them and how they live with trials every day. They continually step-up to face and tackle these challenges, along with their families, which reminds me that I can handle whatever is put in front of me.

 

nurse Lisa with cabin volunteers
Nurse Lisa (second from right) with Cabin Volunteers & Counselors

What is your favorite part of being a camp nurse?

Strangely, pouring and passing a ridiculous amount of medications, not sleeping, and being really loud and crazy are all favorite pieces of nursing at camp. Being part of the team and a cabin so that we get to know the campers and how to make their week the best it can be is amazing. Working with other nurses is a treat for me. I am by trade a school nurse, which can be a very solo practice. While I’m at camp I love being able to have “nursing conversations” and work directly with the doctors on site as well.

Are there any camp experiences or “lessons” that you apply to your work/everyday life?

Treat EVERYONE with love and kindness, and that “no” does not have to exist when it comes to taking care of kids. Also the importance of listening. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experiences with Double H Ranch?

When I found out that camp was going to be virtual this summer, I felt bad that we could not all be physically together. However, I was positive that the Double H team would make it an awesome experience! I have been there through ice storms, the ski hill generator getting struck by lightning, the Swine flu, and many other “challenges.” Time after time the Double H Ranch staff has delivered camp in a calm, energetic, safe, and fun manner – so I knew an alternative camp program this year would be NO different.   

Is there a powerful moment or favorite camp memory that you’d like to share?

A moment that comes to mind is having to send a camper home mid-session and how sad they, their family, and we were-everyone crying as they loaded the car and drove away. Camp is everything to many people and missing any minute of the precious time there is devastating. The powerful part of this story is that the admissions team was able to work their magic and have the camper come for another session. I will never forget that kind act. 

Describe camp using three words!

MAGIC, EMPOWERING, LOVE

volunteers in front of main building
Lisa (front row, third from right) with Volunteers from the Hematology/Oncology Family Weekend

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