Conquering Challenges: Camp Riley Scuba Trip
Camp Riley campers are conquerors.
They conquer dozens of surgeries. They conquer stereotypes of what it means to have a disability. Recently, three campers and their dive buddies conquered a new challenge: scuba certification.
These campers – Joel Anderson of Crown Point, Ind., Teddy Coppes of Muncy, Pa., and Autumn Pearson of Crawfordsville, Ind., – began the certification process in the Camp Riley pool last summer. Last week, they traveled to Denver, Colo., to complete their certification dives in the Denver Aquarium alongside stingrays, sea turtles and a 450-pound grouper.
To coordinate scuba diving for campers who live in the Midwest is no small task. Camp Riley reaps enormous benefits from our partnerships with the Cody Unser First Step Foundation and Epsilon Sigma Alpha Indiana, who have funded this remarkable opportunity for the past four years.
As the Camp Coordinator, I was lucky to pursue scuba certification with my campers. Scuba is as much a mental feat as a physical one. You must convince yourself that it is normal to breathe underwater – and that is just the first step.
Society has low expectations of people with disabilities. My campers are already painfully aware of this reality. Scuba diving presented them with a bigger and better challenge, and they embraced the experience wholeheartedly.
Our week in Denver allowed them to overcome mental hurdles, too. When they learned how to board an airplane with a wheelchair, they began to talk of future trips. When they drove go-karts with hand controls for the first time, it sparked conversations about learning to drive a real car. Though ear troubles prevented two of them from completing the certification dive, they each demonstrated the perseverance, independence and trust that scuba mastery requires.
I am immensely proud of Autumn, Teddy, and Joel. I know that they will conquer whatever challenge faces them next.
After you’ve breathed underwater, how could anything seem impossible?
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