July 23, 2009
Camp Holiday Trails in Albemarle County is a haven for heroes. The campers, councilors, and volunteers each have an inspiring story, but there is one volunteer who travels over 100 miles each year proving, she'll go the distance to make a difference.
"Kids who sometimes are in hospitals, sometimes during the year, are sort of limited in some of their activities. They can just be a kid here, and everyone just focuses on the kids and not their specific disabilities," said Julia Graham, a volunteer and this week's hero.
On the outside, campers at Camp Holiday Trails look like any other kids who spends his or her summer months splashing around, leaving his or her cares to the wind. However, a bracelet is the only outward sign, showing that camper Brittney Schutt has diabetes.
"If I don't have it, people wouldn't know I was a diabetic, and if I passed out they wouldn't know, so they would have to find out the hard way," said Schutt.
Under the watchful eye of councilors and volunteers like Julia, the kids and their parents can feel safe when they spend the week at camp, away from home.
"We take care of their kids. They know their kids are safe and having fun, and when we return them, they're incredibly thankful," said Tina LaRoche, Executive Director of Camp Holiday Trails.
But parents are not the only people who are grateful. Camp officials are also thrilled with the volunteer efforts.
"As a nonprofit we try to stretch our dollars as much as we can, and having volunteers like Julia means we can do that," said LaRoche.
Julia's trek from Washington D.C. to Albemarle County during the summer started four years ago, and despite the distance, she keeps coming back to Camp Holiday Trails for more.
"I've sort of fallen in love with the kids. It's nice to see them grow up and sort of change in a positive way," said Graham.
Julia's time may be unpaid, but it does not go unnoticed.
"She's really quick to know their names and to kind of put herself out there. She's always interacting with them," said fellow volunteer, Leah Pellegrini.
Julia's heroic quality of selflessness is giving children, who truly need it, a summer of love.