Takayla Gadberry '20
Bluffton student is getting major experience at Camp Allyn
After witnessing the positive impact Stepping Stones had on her little brother, Takayla Gadberry decided to become part of the Cincinnati-area non-profit’s team this summer. Gadberry, a sophomore psychology major from Lockland, Ohio, is serving as an overnight counselor at Camp Allyn, a camp run by Stepping Stones for teens and adults with a wide-range of disabilities.
“We are working with people with so many different types of disabilities, some with disabilities I had never even heard of before,” said Gadberry. “I’m one of those learners who does better when I’m able to relate what I’m learning to experiences I’ve had, and I’m learning about stuff that we’re going to discuss in upcoming classes at Bluffton.”
Stepping Stones describes the overnight camps as week-long staycations featuring different themes each week. Some participants attend just one week during the summer, but many come back for multiple weeks. Each new week has turned into a new learning experience for Gadberry.
“The most difficult thing is getting know each individual camper independently. This week I’m a one-on-one counselor so I’m working with one camper specifically, but last week I had 14 campers in my cabin,” said Gadberry. “It’s a challenge trying to understand what makes each individual tick or thrive in order to achieve the best camp experience for each participant.”
During the week, Gadberry and the other counselors lead typical camp activities such as swimming and art projects, but they also help some campers with personal care such as using the restroom or getting dressed in the morning.
Gadberry says being a camp counselor is a challenge, but there is a big payoff to the hard work and dedication put into the week.
“This is a lot of work, I’m not going to lie. It’s a lot of stress on us, but we take videos and pictures of the campers throughout the week and make a video that gets handed out at the end. Watching that video with them and seeing all of their smiles and seeing their faces light up, you realize as stressful as it is for you, we’re doing this for them. To see them have fun is the best thing in the world,” she explained.
Gadberry wants to continue to provide positive experiences for people with disabilities moving forward. Her ultimate goal is to earn a doctorate and practice clinical child psychology in a children’s hospital. She was interested in the field because of the care and attention she has seen given to her brother, at both Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and at the camp and preschool he attended through Stepping Stones. Gadberry believes she will draw on her time with the campers in the future.
“As a psychologist, you’re only working with a patient for a short amount of time. Now, I’m seeing what all of these campers go through on a daily basis. I’m seeing their day-to-day life. I’m seeing the different struggles they are going through, and it’s helping me understand them better and empathize with them. In the future, I can always look back on my experiences from camp.”
Gadberry has several more weeks of interacting with and learning from others ahead of her. Camp Allyn runs through August 4.