Camp volunteers find life-changing experiences

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | August 01, 2014

Image with caption: For current recreation therapy activities technicians Tessa Luczynski, left, and Mary Hoy, Camp Munroe has impacted college decisions and career aspirations.

For current recreation therapy activities technicians Tessa Luczynski, left, and Mary Hoy, Camp Munroe has impacted college decisions and career aspirations.

When Hailey Gould started volunteering at the Munroe-Meyer Institute's Camp Munroe as a high school freshman, she was nervous.

"I had no experience working with kids with special needs," she said. "I was nervous. I wasn't sure if I would like it or feel comfortable."

This fall, Gould, who now works at MMI as a recreation therapy activities technician for the camp, will go to graduate school at Florida State, where she will study in a psychology master's program with the goal of becoming an applied behavior analysis therapist.

"Working for this program has completely changed my life," she said.

Gould's story is not unique. MMI staff members joke that Camp Munroe has become a kind of gateway experience into the health profession, as former camp volunteers and staffers go onto fields such as occupational therapists, physicians, psychologists and similar vocations.

"They fall in love with our kids, they become part of the community, and they want to continue to be of service," said Nicole Giron, who coordinates volunteers for the camp. "We've seen it again and again."

Michael Burns began volunteering at Camp Munroe when he was 16 years old and was later hired as a staff member. Today, he is a speech-language pathologist with the Omaha Public Schools at Omaha North High School. He credits his work at Camp Munroe for his career choice.

"My experiences with these children, staff, and volunteers channeled my academic focus into the field of speech-language pathology," he said. "Camp Munroe taught me how to empower and educate caregivers and families, use my creative abilities, individualize my therapy sessions, and continue on with lifelong learning."

Current staffer Tessa Luczynski began volunteering when she was 12. Seven and a half years later, she plans to study education, with a focus on special education and a minor in psychology, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her co-worker, Mary Hoy, is planning to study speech pathology at St. Louis University.

"I've loved everyone I've met here," Luczynski said. "After being here, I knew I wanted to continue helping others throughout my life."

"Each camper teaches you something different," Hoy added.

Laura Needelman had a similar realization when she volunteered at the camp. Today, she is the clinical coordinator of Autism Care for Toddlers at MMI, and she says that Camp Munroe -- you guessed it -- changed her life.

"I had wanted to be a teacher," she said. "Camp Munroe led me in this direction. It was inspiring, it was fulfilling -- it was fun!"

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bunnita Washington
August 01, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Camp Monroe is a marvelous program for the those attending and volunteers alike. Very nice work being done. Thanks to all involved.

Barb Glover
August 01, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Great stories and a great program we are proud of here at MMI.