Miracles in Minnesota
This annual sports camp illustrates that while you can't control much of what happens in life, you can control your attitude in how you deal with each trial and tribulation.
Imagine being a strong, vibrant 17-year-old with aspirations of becoming a professional hockey player. Now consider sitting on your grandmother's couch, feeling the sensation of a bolt of lightning shooting throughout your upper body, thinking you're having a heart attack, and within hours being paralyzed from the neck down. That scenario was Trent Dubberke's reality when a form of an aneurysm burst around the fifth cervical vertebrae in his neck. The aneurysm had been unknowingly attached to his spinal cord since birth.
Chuck Bloom enjoys a day at the lake during the National Wheelchair Sports & Recreation Camp in Stewartville, Minn.
"Coming to this camp last year changed my life and made me feel truly comfortable with being in a wheelchair," Dubberke says. "It made the challenges I have now easier to overcome. I saw that being in a wheelchair could be cool and not a taboo."
When camp founder and director Bob Bardwell first invited me to speak at the camp, I didn't know what to expect. I've been a wheelchair user for 22 years and have been blessed during my 14-year rugby career to travel throughout North America, Europe, and Australia.
I've sat in Rome's Colosseum, soaking in the richness of the history, and also on the gold-medal stand in two Paralympics. But nowhere have I experienced the awe of what I was part of in rural Minnesota—the collective stories, like those similar to Dubberke's, from members of the wheelchair community in the coming together of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth—as I did during my six days at camp. All of which takes its cue from Bardwell, who makes no distinction among quadriplegic, paraplegic, amputee, manual or power-chair users, etc., which is quite uncommon in a world where people with disabilities tend to segregate themselves based upon their label or category of disability.
How it Started
The miracle at Ironwood Springs started almost 40 years ago when Bardwell's father purchased the land in rural Minnesota. After Bob finished college in the early 1970s, he sustained a spinal-cord injury and became paraplegic. From there, a dream; a determined, positive spirit; and, most importantly, a deep abiding faith coupled with a multitude of supporters led to what resides on the ranch today—what could be the world's most fully wheelchair-accessible outdoor camp.
Check out the complete article in the September 2011 issue of S'NS.