My Experience at the National SBA Conference Kids Camp

By Lena Williamson

This past summer, SBAGNE gave me a scholarship to attend Kids Camp at the biennial National Spina Bifida Association Conference. This year, it was hosted just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota (just a short ride away from the Mall of America). In kids camp, I was grouped with other teenagers my age who also have spina bifida for a few days full of fun activities, informational sessions, and social interactions with other kids that I might not ever meet otherwise.

The part about the conference that stood out most to me was definitely the social interaction. I was able to meet and talk to about 30 other kids my age, with a wide array of forms of spina bifida. Kids came from all over the country. There were people from Washington, Texas, and Minnesota, just to name a few. I became close with a few of the girls from the conference and we all had the opportunity to share contact information, so we would be able to stay in touch when the conference ended. At the end of the conference, there was a dance for all of us with music, snacks, and more time to interact.

Throughout camp, there were activities for us to participate in, which made it easier to make friends more naturally. There was never a dull moment. My favorite activity was an art project we did. A woman came in and gave us instructions on what to paint, it was a tree. What was really great about it was how we were all told the same thing, but all of the paintings ended up incredibly different and unique in the end. We also had the opportunity to meet with some service dogs (in training) and learn about the process of training them to be suitable to give off to a person in need. We could tell that the dogs were not yet ready to graduate from puppy training, but they were fun to meet. We also got to see a stand up comedy/improv show, in which the entire audience of kids was involved in. They truly did keep us occupied without a boring moment.

Another critical side of the conference was the education portion. You might think that the educational parts would just be for parents, or medical providers, but it was for everyone. The people running the kids camp were able to fit in time to learn about the different companies and brands that were represented at the conference, by making it into a fun scavenger hunt in which we had to speak to the people at each booth to get a sticker on our sheet. The winners of the contest got prizes, but we were all able to learn a lot.

Overall, I had a very positive experience at the National Spina Bifida Association conference, and I hope to return the next time that it occurs. Traveling to new places to meet people with similar experiences to me is always a positive thing. The fun activities and educational aspect is an added bonus. I would encourage anybody with spina bifida, no matter what age, to attend this conference if they had the opportunity to.  Thank you SBAGNE!  This was a fantastic experience!