Mary Grace von Thron, opinions editor
Berry senior nursing student Elliana Splichal spends her summers working at Camp Twin Lakes. Located in Winder, Ga., Camp Twin Lakes provides year-round, fully-adaptative camp experiences for children with developmental and physical disabilities.
Splichal has been working at Camp Twin Lakes since the summer of 2016.
“I actually kind of grew up with the woman who runs the equestrian side of the camp, she was running it for a little while and I knew her just because the horse community is so small and everyone kind of knows each other,” Splichal said. “I was 16 looking for a summer job and she asked me to do camp that summer.”
In addition to working at Camp Twin Lakes during the summer, Splichal also works at the camp during the school year for Camp Twin Lakes weekend camps.
“During the regular year they’ll have family camps come. And so they’ll have like people who come like whose children are autistic or they’ll have, a camp where they [the families and campers] had a family member die at war,” Splichal said.
Splichal said weekend camp sessions like these help families find solace with other families that have had the same experiences as them.
“Every single camp that comes, all the people there are connected by a traumatic event or by their disability,” Splichal said. “So like, it’s a huge community that’s there.”
Research has shown that equine therapy is very beneficial for people with disabilities, Splichal explained. For example, the rhythm that is created by a horse in movement can be very calming and relaxing for those riding the horse. Splichal said that in some instances, a child with Tourette’s syndrome, a condition that involves uncontrollable repetitive movements or unwanted sounds, such as repeatedly blinking the eyes, shrugging shoulders or blurting out offensive words, will get so in the zone when riding their horse that their tics will momentarily go away.
“So, it’s just kind of a little bit of like an escape from reality for a lot of these kids,” Splichal said.
In addition to this, Splichal said that the children who attend Camp Twin Lakes gain a large amount of confidence through riding horses.
“It gives kids a whole lot of confidence,” Splichal said. “Especially for kids who don’t necessarily have the confidence to do everything that like another kid is doing because like they’re looked at weirdly or they are seen as less than, or like, they’re not given the opportunities to do things that they could be able to do because they’re disabled or like people just decide you can’t do it, and just kind of put them to the side. So that’s one thing that I find that’s really cool about it is it gives kids like a lot of confidence to be able to like, kind of like do it by themselves.”
Splichal said that the experience she gained working at Camp Twin Lakes with children is what made her realize that she wanted to pursue a career in nursing.
“I learned that I just love kids and I love talking to the kids and like, it brings me so much joy to make them feel like they’re special and that they’re loved and like, even if it’s just someone talking to them for a second, they feel like they’re heard and that they’re cared for and that like, it’ll be okay for a minute,” Splichal said. “I love caring for other people and I love building that connection with other people, which like, kind of influenced me to go into nursing.”
While working at Camp Twin Lakes can be tiring, Splichal often reminds herself why she does it.
“Especially at the end of the day, when I’ve been working all day, I’ve been working with horses all day, it’s hot, I’m tired, I’m sweaty, I’m ready to be done,” Splichal said. “It’s just remembering that I’m doing it for a purpose, I’m doing it for a reason, you know?”
To learn more about Camp Twin Lakes and how to get involved, go to https://camptwinlakes.org/volunteer/.