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A Tribute by Mary Stratham (July 2013)

I love going camping. Tents, trailers, cabins; they all put me in the woods. But camping with a disability can be especially challenging. I tend to go only with people I really trust to understand my limitations (and who don’t mind leading me to the bathroom at three in the morning). For people in wheelchairs, camping can be so much less a family affair than it otherwise would be. There are special camps for people with special needs, but how does that work for a family? Agur Lake Camp is addressing that question admirably. This camp is devoted to the idea of inclusion, to making a place where families can camp together and enjoy the outdoors together.

A contingent of CRIS volunteers ( including me) drove up last Saturday to help celebrate the camp’s grand opening. It has been a long time coming, with years of dedication poured into the project. Community organizations have come together to help support the effort, but the true work has been done by love. Love shows in all the details of the cabins, and in the paths that lead around the lake. This is a place that welcomes everyone, and I was so proud and happy to be there to applaud their work. Our volunteers took people out and about in the Trail-Riders, so they could get a taste of what waits for them at Agur Lake. As usual, the other volunteers walked while I talked. I got to hear what it meant for families to find a place where a wheelchair was no longer a barrier. They talked about fishing, or just sitting down on the dock together.

Those of us with disabilities still have families and loved ones, still have the need for campfires and singing and stories together, still have the want for shared experiences. Each Agur Lake cabin accommodates six people of any level of ability. The rates are extremely reasonable, and the first campers will be arriving later this month. This forest-scented space where the work of hearts and hands have made a place that everyone can share, this is the true miracle to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m amazed and impressed by the cabins themselves, and the thought that has gone into them. But the smiles of welcome, and the feeling of belonging, these are the things that help make Agur Lake the miracle it is.

I love that we could help visitors explore the camp, and that we could share in the triumph of a dream realized. I am especially happy to have met the amazing people responsible for nurturing that dream every step of the way. It takes courage to accomplish what they have, and even greater courage to commit to carrying on. My heart-felt congratulations go out to them all, and my deepest gratitude as well. We have amazing people in our valley, doing extraordinary things.