“Make Promises Happen (MPH), a program of Central Christian Camp & Conference Center, is dedicated to providing outdoor recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs. The program serves youth and adults ages 6 and older with any disability. Through the support of volunteer counselors, campers leave limitations behind and enjoy fishing, boating, arts & crafts, swimming, archery, dances, talent shows and much more during MPH camp events. MPH events take place throughout the year with weekends and week-long camps. Campers also have the opportunity to be selected to participate in Make Promises Happen’s adventure trip program, which includes skiing in Winter Park, Colorado, and surfing in Port Aransas, Texas.” – MPH Website
I have been involved with Make Promises Happen for four years now. How I got involved and why I stay involved is part of my testimony, and life story really. We are about to go a little deep here people.
At 9:02 April 19th 1995, the Oklahoma Murrah Bombing occurred, killing 168 innocent people including my grandmother Colleen Guiles. Being only five years old, I have little blips of memories of this day and the days after, my Mom on her knees in front of the T.V. and crying over the phone in the kitchen, and sitting in a circle with my family saying our favorite memories of my grandmother, and during this watching my cousins cry. This was very tragic for my family, Colleen had been married to my Grandad making her my mother’s step mom. I am very close to my own step mom and cannot imagine losing her, especially in such a horrific way. My Dad is a paramedic in Norman and they started calling all paramedics into work and towards the city because all of the OKC first responders were in the building. They sent him home when they knew of his family connection to the tragedy. Soon after arriving home they dropped my brother and I off with my Dad’s parents I assume, and my Mom and Dad went to my Grandad and Colleen’s house. Dad says they found my Grandad in the house alone, all the lights off, watching the news. The local news had a camera mounted on a tripod in front of the building giving live footage 24 hours a day, knowing your loved one was locked inside dead or alive, you couldn’t know for certain would be horrible. My Mom always claims that this is the time when her and my father started distancing in their marriage.
That was the first event in my life that God would use to lead me on the path I am on now.
Fast forward a few years, after my parents are divorced and re-married to my wonderful step parents. Yes I say wonderful because they love me like their own and I’m not even blood (insert corny Brad Paisley song here) and I treated them both with the horrible attitude that most teenagers adopt. I thought that since I was passing classes, going to school, not doing drugs (yet) that I should be treated like some kind of royalty, the kind that craps on everyone with the way they act towards others. It was horrible, my parents and I fought all of the time. High school was a really weird time for me, most people’s stories are, oh I got in with the wrong crowd and started doing things I shouldn’t etc. etc. but for me it was different. I had this super need to be different than everyone else, and not in the dye my hair pink wear freaky clothes kind of way, but in the way that I wanted to be the only one who knew of band so and so, or had lyrics and colors and designs from India all over my binder, and went to non-conventional places for lunch. It was weird, and I so bad wanted others, especially guys to notice that in me, notice that I played guitar or could sing or had messy hair and bracelets. It wasn’t like a notice me cause my Daddy doesn’t thing, my Dad always noticed me and loved and appreciated me for who I was, I was just so freaked out by structure and cookie cutter life timelines. Everyone I knew had been from Norman, went to Norman schools, and then went to OU. Everyone. So I found a guy who was a little different than the other guys, and I thought this would make me a little different from everyone. HAHA I was hooked. We only dated for maybe 6 months. It ended and still no one noticed me and my extremely cool uniqueness, so I think my brain started malfunctioning, the only thoughts I thought were, Is he looking at me? Will he be here for lunch? Is the text I just got from him? This changed from guy to guy, but when you’re only thinking those thoughts you forget to have fun with your friends, you forget to be nice to your parents, you forget to do your school work, you forget to plan for college. You are the only one who’s problems matter. I wanted a stupid artsy love adventure and did drugs and drank to try and get it. I have forgiven myself now, but I still regret not making high school super fun and soaking up all that it was.
Graduation came and I still had no plan. I hadn’t enrolled in any college, and by this time my Mom had gotten sick of my attitude and kicked me out to live with my grandparents. Then one day I got a call from my Step Mom, Carrie. Carrie co-owns a salon in Norman. One of her clients, Sandy, who owned a company called ‘Capture that Productions’ had been telling her that she was making a documentary on a special needs camp in Guthire, Oklahoma and needed another crew member. Carrie told her about me because I had been involved in a video media class in high school (there I go being artsy again). Carrie told me about it and gave me her contact information. I was super excited, and very nervous. I called Sandy and she spoke to me about the camp and how much she would pay me, and how long we would be staying. I packed my bags for three weeks, three weeks that would change my life completely.
I can’t remember the date but I remember it was really early in the morning that Sandy met me at my house and I followed her to Central Christian Camp in Guthrie. We spent the month shooting, interviewing, and drinking Diet Coke.
It was something I had never experienced, you can’t have a bad day at camp, it just doesn’t happen, especially camp for those with disabilities. Everyone I was surrounded by was so positive, and happy about life and the experiences that happen every day. What had I been doing my whole life? Driving home from camp was surreal, everything looked different, I had a new view on life. Finally instead of constantly thinking about myself and how I had been dealt a bad hand because no one put an lonely artsy girl on a pedal stool, I wanted to make a change. Because camp doesn’t happen ALL the time though they do have weekend camps, I still needed to get away from my comfort zone. I moved to Dallas for a year, lived with my cousin Todd and taught preschool.
I did a lot of thinking while in Dallas. With only a few friends and family members you get a lot of alone time. I’d like to say I grew up that year.
I came home the next year, not because I was homesick, but Dallas was big and I wanted to grow my business around the people I knew would help me grow into the photographer I wanted to be. I moved back in with my grandparents and started going to bible study with them, and to a college bible study. I started learning that I didn’t just want to date different guys, I needed to start looking for someone who would be a good husband and father. That lazy artsy no religion guy I kept finding wasn’t going to cut it. I was finally me. I was close to my family, I got to go to camps throughout the year, I knew what I wanted and I finally had the patience for God to let it come to me rather than depress myself trying to mold it myself. I strayed a little here and there, it’s hard to rebuild your way of thinking.
November 8th 2009, young adult weekend camp. Josh’s first camp ever, the weekend we met. Our relationship is a whole blog post on it’s own that will come when our wedding photos arrive. We were married at camp this July 21st, with HUGE helping hands of our camp family that make me tear up every time I think of how wonderful these people are, and Josh and I still continue to make the drive to Guthrie to be a part of this very magical place.
Even if you feel like you’ve messed it up, or you don’t know where you are going in life, God has a plan for you. He takes bad things like bombings, divorce ,and wild teenagers and makes them work for good. I would have never been where I am now if it weren’t for the path God made for me.
Make Promises Happen is not only a camp for those with disabilities who come to finally feel accepted and involved in activities that normally they would have to sit on the sidelines for, but for the volunteers who come and discover that life isn’t about them, but about helping others and living life to the fullest with what you’ve been given everyday. I have been very honored to be hired as the camps photographer and get to capture the little moments that happen on a regular basis.
That was my story on how and why I am a member of the Make Promises Happen camp family, if you are ever interested in volunteering your time or donating your money to this wonderful non-profit organization, I would do so right away ; )
Below are just a few photos of this weekends camp.