WAVERLY, Va. -- Along a lonely stretch of Route 460, deep in the woods of Wakefield, might just be the happiest place on earth.
The MDA Camp is where smiles radiate and friendships are forged. It is summer camp at its very best: from swimming and talent shows to pie eating contests. Campers here lean more heavily on dedicated counselors at this camp.
“Just seeing these kids. It’s the best thing in the world,” MDA Camp Co-Director Alison Beno said. “It’s almost a feeling like you can’t describe.”
Stephanie Colorado sees herself in the many faces of these children.
“My sister and I first attended when I was six and she was eight,” Stephanie said. “We just loved camp it was a great experience for us.”
For 13 summers in a row, Stephanie and her sister, Aileen, attended the MDA camp every June.
“We were very close. It was just a real fun time,” says Stephanie.
The MDA camp is a place where Muscular Dystrophy disabilities were long forgotten. The 37-year-old recalls her time at camp allowed her to feel like, well, a normal kid.
Volunteer Hans Bernhardt remembered Stephanie.
“I never saw her without a smile,” Hans said. “She is incredible. She has a heart of gold.”
Stephanie cherishes the life-long memories of MDA camp and her older sister who passed away from pneumonia in 2011.
“My sister rarely had a bad day,” Stephanie said. “They’re all happy memories. I was kind of grateful she was able to live a good life.”
The Chesterfield woman is making sure her sister’s legacy lives on. Stephanie now raises money throughout the year to send children like Tori Hoffert, who lives with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, to the week-long excursion.
“This is my third year here,” Tori said. “I don’t know what I would do without this camp because it has changed my life.”
Stephanie said all children living with MD should have their moment in the sun.
“It just makes me feel good to know that other kids will enjoy the things I did growing up,” she said.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association bills this camp as the best week of the summer -- and judging from the smiles, who could argue with that?
“It is unforgettable. I’ll remember this week for the rest of my life,” Co-Director Alison Beno said.
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