This August, the Clarus team spent a day working with kids at Camp Hemlocks, an accessible camp for youth and adults with 43 distinct types of physical, sensory, intellectual and developmental disabilities in Hebron, CT.
Campers spend six nights participating in fun activities like campfires and friendship bracelets, but the benefits of this summer camp go way deeper than that.
Camp Hemlocks is a place where campers feel like they are part of one big family while social skills flourish, independence is promoted, and confidence is developed.
Those are all qualities we admire and we certainly felt like a part of that family for the day. We’ve partnered with the camp and the Muscular Dystrophy Associationsince 2012 and each time is a learning experience for us.
The week during which we volunteered was dedicated to children and young adults diagnosed with MS and we worked with approximately 40 campers between the ages of 8 to 16 years old.
In the morning, we participated in a series of arts and crafts such as autograph books, harmonicas, hand painting, scratch guitars, and spin drums, during which our B2B Marketing Manager Paul Wolfer had quite the learning experience.
“I like kids, but I’m not great at interacting with them. I get nervous.”, he said. “My fiancé is a teacher and she has tried to teach me a few things. For example, asking kids questions and letting them think for themselves is important. I was working on a spin drum with a little girl and she seemed to really get the hang of it, so I kept asking her for advice and recommendations on how to build my own, like how long my string should be. I could feel how proud she was to help me and I think it built her confidence. We both learned from each other and that made the day beautiful to me.”
The fun activities continued into the afternoon with a variety of board and card games as well as some sports. Our CFO Bob Breunig had a blast playing outdoor hockey.
“I got the opportunity to play hockey with Aiden, Mason and two others. They brought the same intensity and love for sports that my son and his buddies bring to hockey and my daughter and her teammates bring to softball.”, he said. “It was a great afternoon and I’ll never forget the kids we met today. I was grateful to play a part in the fight against MD by working with these kids for the day.”
We ended our visit by hosting an ice cream social where sweet treats were enjoyed by campers, staff and Clarus alike. Everyone not only went home filled with dessert, but with positive feelings. Jennifer Bitter, our Senior Director, Human Resources, was no exception.
“What struck me the most were the kids. That sounds a little generic, but let me explain”, she said. “These are kids with TOUGH lives. When I started showing kids how to make the craft I was working on, I fully prepared myself for some of them to be frustrated if they were physically unable to do certain things or be afraid to ask for help. What shocked me was how comfortable they were in their own skin. Those who could do things did, and those who couldn’t either tried and then asked for help, or just asked for help right off the bat. They were so sweet, grateful, and excited to be part of something, and their humble nature really touched me. I give the organizers of that camp and all the counselors a lot of credit. They seem to connect with the kids and have infinite patience, which I really admire.”
Personally, I really loved seeing the genuine smiles and appreciation the kids showed while we were there.
While I was helping kids make harmonicas, it made me so happy to see the moment of surprise on the children’s faces when they blew their instruments for the first time after assembling them.
It’s a great feeling to give back in a way bring happiness to others – especially children!
I believe it’s important to help and teach others whenever you can, but there is a deeper lesson in that.
Be open to being taught.
The campers were not the only students that day. So were we. I think that the kids we helped taught us even more than we taught them. They taught us how to be more patient, be more compassionate, and to look at things differently. For those things, we are grateful.
We talk a lot about loyalty at Clarus as it takes place between brands and consumers, but we can’t forget what that means in the larger picture.
Loyalty is also about allegiance to our community, and that’s why Clarus Cares events will carry on. If you would like to nominate a local charity or cause for consideration for a future event, contact us anytime.
Interested in working for a company that cares about the local Connecticut community just as much as you do? Check out our job openings here.