​My Week in The Woods

Posted by EmpowHer Stories in Life After Paralysis on February 03, 2023 # EmpowHer Stories

GianaI had the coolest experience last summer. I met some friends that I know I will have for the rest of my life. And it all happened at EmpowHer Camp.

I first heard about EmpowHer Camp through our fearless leader, Stephanie. When she told me about camping in the Adirondacks, I really wanted to go, but I was also very nervous. I was nervous about sleeping in the woods, being away from my parents, and meeting new people. I was also worried about doing some of my own daily care.

Despite my fears, I applied to camp and anxiously waited to see if I would be accepted. I was so excited (and still nervous) when I found out I got in. Soon after I was accepted, I had my first meeting with the team in June. The planning began with a meeting over Zoom, the first time I met the other campers and learned about all the people I would be spending a week within the Adirondacks.

In order to feel confident that the mentors could properly help me with my daily routine at camp, we set up a visit to my house for some of the mentors to learn the different elements of my routine. We got to know each other, practiced my routine, and laughed a lot which helped me know we would get along.

Fast forward to August, my mom helped me pack clothes for each day of the week. We didn't realize I would stay in my pajamas practically all week because it was comfy and no one at camp cares what you wear. Soon it was time to go to camp. My parents and I drove for five hours. Since I can’t drive, I got to watch two movies and a show, including Lilo and Stitch and iCarly.

When I got to camp and said goodbye to my parents, the first place I went to was my lean-to. It wasn’t what I expected, it was smaller than I thought it would be, but it still had a little bit of room to move around. My mentor and I set up my bed before going to join the group for dinner.

Throughout the week, we learned a lot of new skills, including starting a fire. Every morning we would hike in the woods and learn a little more about using maps and compasses each day. One day we went to the pond and used LifeStraws to drink the pond water. A LifeStraw is a special straw with a filter that removes germs from the water. After dinner, we always had a campfire and a sing-along. I liked that we had time to talk about our lives and have fun. Long after the sun was down, we all would go to bed in the dark. My bedtime routine at home takes some time, but at camp, it was usually longer and had more mosquitos and less electricity.

At the end of the week, I was both sad and happy to head home. On the one hand, I got my phone back, but it also meant I had to leave my friends. This year I am working on a project with my mentor on emergency safety, and in July, I will present the completed project in Washington, D.C., during our reunion trip. I cannot wait to see all of my friends and hear about their years during the trip.

Giana enjoys playing with legos, eating junk food, shopping, and hanging out with friends while listening to Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo. She would describe herself as ‘funny and determined.’ One day Giana wants to be a child life specialist and married with kids.

This blog is a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.