SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) He dreamed of working at Camp Kostopulos and working with people – like himself – who have disabilities. This summer – the kid who attended Camp K – became a counselor at Camp K. And as a counselor Ben McKenna says he can truly understand the fears and the joys the campers experience.
Ben has been coming to Camp K for about a decade. He has spina-bifida, is a kidney transplant recipient and is wheel chair bound. And he told me this in 2015. “Hoping I can turn being part of this camp into a career.”
Fast forward to today and Ben is no longer a camper – he’s a counselor. “I’ve gone through these challenges myself. I can relate to a lot of these campers. A lot more than I thought.” Ben says his first hand experiences as a camper have helped some of the so called ‘new kids’.
“I’ve had a couple of campers who came in on Monday and were really scared and really nervous and I can talk to them and say I have been in your position once – its really scary at first, but once you get started the week will be over before you know it.” “This is a place that helped me cope with my medical differences.” “Being able to just hangout. Being able to meet new people.”
Ben was hired as part of the SWEET or Summer Work, Exploration, Experience, and Training program through the state of Utah. And it’s his first paid job. “Its definitely one great experience for me. It’s really nice.” But he says the pay check comes in second to the opportunity.
“Making these kids happy is good enough for me. Seeing a smile on a kid’s face with down syndrome or autism that is good enough for me. Seeing their face light up because you did it – means the world to me.”
Camp K’s SWEET Program prepares high school students for the workforce. They are hired to work side-by-side with Camp K staff, gain real work experience, and earn a paycheck. To learn more about Camp Kostopulos and its programs for those of all abilities – check out this story or just search “Camp K” on our website: http://www.good4utah.com http://www.campk.org