Southlake firefighters are known for racing toward raging fires to save lives and property but oftentimes they go even further in their commitment to serve others.
Meet Southlake Firefighters Jody Keeler and Eric Woods. They just returned from a weeklong trip as volunteers at Camp John Marc – the MDA Summer Camp in Meridian, Texas. Camp John Marc is a completely wheelchair accessible atmosphere. This year 120 campers with Muscular Dystrophy and 100 counselors (volunteers) were at the camp from June 13th to 19th.
Keeler and Woods volunteered as counselors with a group of 15 and 16-year old young men. This is Firefighter Jody Keeler’s second year volunteering at the camp, and Woods first; both plan to return to the MDA Camp every year. Keeler says it’s one of the most rewarding things he’s ever done. “You could see their young faces light up when they arrived at camp; and so did ours. They immediately filled our hearts with joy and happiness.” Keeler added, “You might think the kids get more out of the interaction than we do, but these young men are truly a blessing and a gift to me. They never have a bad attitude and never complain about not being able to do everyday life skills that we oftentimes take for granted. They are such an inspiration.”
The campers had so much fun at Camp John Marc. They were excited to participate in every day activities such as fishing, sports activities, swimming, horseback riding, zip lining, cooking, pottery, arts and crafts, blow darts and a lot more throughout the week. “This is the campers’ one week to just be like any other kid,” said Keeler.
Keeler and Woods add that they are grateful to Fire Chief Mike Starr and Deputy Fire Chief Wade Carroll who allow them the opportunity to volunteer. Carroll says, “This is what the ‘Fill the Boot’ campaign is all about – helping kids with Muscular Dystrophy. Donations from our community are just one of the many ways that help make the MDA Camp possible.”
This was Firefighter Woods first time as a counselor at the MDA Camp. He says, “Being at the MDA camp was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve have ever had. It was truly a blessing for me and was great to experience first-hand what ‘Fill the Boot” is all about, who it impacts and why we do it.”
You might be wondering what impact the camp has on the volunteers. “These kids were truly amazing individuals, and this experience has completely changed my life without a doubt,” said Woods. He adds, “Jody Keeler said it the best – ‘It is a life reset for us.’ To see these kids with physical disabilities wake up everyday at camp with nothing but smiles; positive attitudes, polite manners, and not a single ounce of depression or anger, truly made me look at my life in a completely different light.”
“The things that we complain about throughout our normal everyday lives, whether it be at work, home, or in our personal lives gets completely tossed out the window,” says Woods. “The things we take for granted everyday, such as the simple act of walking, or being able to bring a fork to our mouth with our favorite food is something these incredible kids struggle with every day, yet they are filled with such joy. It makes you realize that getting stuck in traffic, worrying about money etc. are small things when you see these kids overcome incredible odds – and they do it every day with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.”
Woods said, “I am proud to be a part of a City and a department that allowed me to have the opportunity to volunteer at this amazing camp with these amazing kids!” Woods said he would be back, along with Keeler, next year. “Words can not express my deep appreciation and gratitude to have shared this week with these special kids,” said Woods.
The Southlake Fire Department would like to thank all of the folks who donated to MDA ‘Fill the Boot’ over the years. If you would like to see more pictures of the camp and learn more about Camp John Marc we’ve provided a link for you. http://www.mda.org