Ryan's Speech at the Miami Fundraiser

At our Miami fundraiser on May 5th, we welcomed BluEx camper, Ryan, to the stage to share his story and his feelings on camp with the 350 guests who came out to support him and his fellow campers. Here's what Ryan shared with us...

Hello. My name is Ryan. I am thirteen years old and I’m from Lake Worth, Florida. I’m in 8th grade at Woodlands Middle School.

When I was growing up, I knew my dad was bipolar and had problems with depression. One night, he told me and my brother he was leaving.  I had made a picture for him at school that day. He told me he didn’t need to take the picture to remember me. He hugged us goodbye, left the house and never came back.

Some people told us he had been in a car accident. I found out later he had committed suicide. When I found out what he did, I was very sad and angry. I felt completely alone. I didn’t think anyone could understand what I was feeling. It was hard for me to pay attention at school. I yelled a lot at my family when they tried to help me. I would slam the door to my room. I felt that my heart had a really bad pain that would not go away. I just wanted to be left alone.

Then my mom found out about Experience Camps. At first, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go. I had never been away for a week before and I didn’t know how it was going to be. But when I got to the airport, all the counselors were really nice. Half the plane was filled with kids who were like me.  We took a big bus to the camp and when we arrived there, it was amazing. People were cheering and waving at the bus. When we got off the bus, everyone was high fiving and super friendly. I stopped feeling nervous and was really glad I was there.

The first day was so much fun. We got assigned to cabins and I met three of the nicest counselors ever. We had a lot of activities that helped us all get to know each other and I started to talk more with the other campers. I expected the camp to be sad but it was so much fun. The whole place was amazing. It was like an awesome dream. The cabins were by a big lake. There was a diving board, jet skis, tubing, and a swimming pool. There was a skatepark, basketball court, archery, tennis court, kickball field, and lacrosse. There was even a zipline in the trees. One day we climbed a mountain and saw a waterfall. It was the coolest place I had ever been to.

We made teams for College League and called ourselves Clemson and Pitt. On our teams and in our bunks, we learned to rely on each other and trust each other. All the kids really bonded. We felt comfortable talking about the person we loved who had died. No one judged or looked at me differently. No one made me feel embarrassed to say how I felt. We had campfires and talked and had fun.

I realized all the kids who were there had lost someone they loved. I realized everything I felt was normal. I made a lot of really good friends at camp. That week at camp changed me. I stopped feeling so hurt and alone, and by the end of the week, the pain in my heart did not seem as bad. I am really grateful to everyone at Experience Camps and to everyone who helps them make these camps. I can’t wait to go back this summer!