The reality is some people see my differences before they see “me.” I was born with a Craniofacial Disorder called “Hemifacial Microsomia.” Those are two big words, but in a nutshell, I am missing my right ear and one side of my face is underdeveloped resulting in a lack of muscle movement. Growing up, I was accustomed to surgeries and doctors’ appointments. In fact, at age six there was one hospital stay that had me fighting for my life.
I knew I was “different” but tried to not let it define me, but then high school started. After more surgeries leaving me battered and bruised, I withdrew. I lost my confidence. The insecurity and isolation compounded when the people I thought were my “friends” stopped calling and loneliness seeped in. While this experience stung deeply at the time, in hindsight, it was also a turning point in my life because I found Camp Korey – a place where I finally felt accepted!
Sense of Belonging
I’ve always wanted to give back and help others like me. I was incredibly lucky to find a compassionate mentor in Dr. Carrie Heike, one of my craniofacial team doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She introduced me to a camp for kids with medical conditions and they were offering their very first two weeks of residential summer camp for kids with Craniofacial Disorders! Dr. Heike asked if I would be interested in volunteering, and said yes, not knowing what would happen next. Fate played a hand in this because at the end of those two inspiring and emotional weeks – I was transformed.
Stretching my Comfort Zone
I was changed. Camp had changed me and in early 2010, as a college freshman, I was hired as a summer staff at Camp Korey for the coming Summer. Naturally, I was extremely nervous about my role being on staff and working around the clock with kids. I drummed up the courage and embraced this incredible opportunity that stretched me out of my comfort zone. By pushing myself, I realized what I wanted to do with my life.
Calling in Life
In thanks to my life-changing experiences at Camp Korey, I made the decision to study Therapeutic Recreation at Western Washington University. I knew first-hand the power of recreation through the eyes of our campers and the magic of camp is simply indescribable. Camp is truly therapeutic for kids who may struggle daily because of their medical conditions.
Passion and Friendship
I was committed to camp – I found my happy place! I met the most inspiring kids and families whom I carry in my heart to this day. As our staple song at camp “Stars in the Sky” goes, “the friends you make become a part of you.” I have had the opportunity to go to weddings, concerts, dinners, vacations, and MORE with friends I have met through Camp Korey.
Since 2015, I have had the pleasure of being a full-time Volunteer Coordinator at Camp Korey. It has been truly amazing to come full circle, starting out as a volunteer 12 years ago and now, having the pleasure of seeing camp impact the lives of new volunteers and campers every year.
As a final note, I want to thank my wonderful family for being on this journey with me and always supporting me and helping me through the difficult times and being with me for the great times!
Love truly grows here!
This is story is written first-hand by Paige Mackintosh, Volunteer Coordinator extraordinaire. For over 12 years Paige has been that welcoming smile, shoulder to lean on and friend for campers, volunteers, and community friends. Paige proudly proclaims that she is part of Camp Korey, however; WE are the fortunate and proud ones that Camp Korey is part of Paige’s story.