It has been just over a month since my family and I attended the annual NJCTS Family Retreat Weekend at Camp Bernie for the 5th time, and I am still thinking about the experience.
Every year, I look forward to catching up with folks that I only see at the retreat, participating in the support-group discussions with other parents, and enjoying the camp activities. Reconnecting with our old friends, and meeting new families, reassures my wife and me that we are not alone in the struggles (and unique joys!) of living with children affected by TS.
This year, despite my wife breaking her ankle just before the teen discussion panel (!), I left camp rejuvenated and inspired.
What I look forward to the most at Camp Bernie, however, is watching my daughters. It is one of the few places outside of our home that they can tic with little to no anxiety or embarrassment, and it provides them with a valuable opportunity to interact with others that have TS.
The welcoming environment not only makes them feel that they are an integral part of a larger community, it fosters their confidence in who they are and what they have to offer.
My younger daughter, who has been very resistant to standing on a stage, spent hours practicing with her sister to perform in front of everyone at the talent show, while my older daughter, recognizing that what she has to say is important and may help others, participated in the teen discussion panel.
Over the years, I have watched them grow to be self-assured kids who advocate for themselves and others, and their experiences at Camp Bernie have undoubtedly been an important part of this process.
The annual retreat has had a tremendously positive impact on our lives and others who attend. I look forward to participating in future years and meeting new friends, watching our old friends continue to grow, and, most importantly, taking my daughters to a very special place where they can just have fun.