Camp Encourage

Camp Encourage Summer Camp

Kansas City, Missouri

I was first connected to Camp Encourage through my friend Brandon Parigo. Brandon is a super talented filmmaker and multimedia storyteller in Kansas City and he was making a film piece for Camp Encourage.  Never skipping an opportunity to grow and learn, I couldn’t help but ask to tag along to photograph it. I wanted more experience in telling stories of legitimacy, struggle, and triumph, and felt this experience fit the bill.

So what is Camp Encourage, exactly?  Camp Encourage in Kansas City encourages social growth, independence, and self-esteem in youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For many of the campers, this is the first time they’ve ever been away from their home, away from their parents, in an overnight experience.

Admittedly, when I arrived at camp I had little idea about Autism. But, I quickly started to learn more about this and what it means to live with Autism.  More importantly, how absolutely amazing these kids were.

It would be easy to document this camp as a day-to-day manual of what these kids and counselors do at the surface level of Camp Encourage. It’s “summer camp” after all. They ride horses, have archery practice, swim…making a picture of their basic day wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

I wanted to photograph Camp Encourage in its true light. Not just what they did, but WHY they did it. Not JUST their victories, but HOW they were struggling, and most importantly  HOW they overcame those battles to become victorious.  

Every story that has a struggle is worthy of being told. Without seeing the struggle it’s hard to really understand how great and mighty the victory really is.

It was absolutely amazing to watch the staff of this camp embrace and support these kids for who they are.  Seeing everyone come together creating a community of love and reassurance is a pretty remarkable thing. That was exactly what I wanted to show in my photographs. To show that each of the students are capable of great things regardless of obstacles they might face. I went to Camp Encourage nieve about Autism and left with a deeper understanding and a desire to spread what great things the fine folks at Camp Encourage are doing. To make a difference with my images and support their cause.

The challenge with documenting Camp Encourage was the abundance of stories that proved impossible for just us to document. After our first time at Camp Encourage, Brandon and I knew it was the perfect place for the next Wirkshop Series workshop. This idea would prove a great way to tell more stories and to give back to what Camp does for so many and help their cause. And so was developed, Camp Wirkshop.  

Last summer I teamed up with Brandon Parigo where we had 7 students (wedding photographers, family photographers, etc) bunked into one cabin at Camp Encourage. Each student was assigned a camper cabin and tasked with creating a multimedia story using still photographs and audio capture. In order for the students to tell the true story of this organization, they would need to dig deep and identify the campers hardships and gains. They would need to see beyond the “what” they were doing, and get to the “why” they were doing it.

We worked with the students in the field on reaching their full potential in photojournalism and story execution. Brandon was the student’s multimedia guide, helping them identify the context of their images through audio clips and interviews. Together we were able to help the students push their story, mentor them in the field, and give them honest critiques to better their story.

This was an incredible experience and I’ve been looking forward to the 2nd Camp Wirkshop since we left the first one.  he result of all of the hard work was some of the multimedia stories our students created for Camp Encourage were shown at their annual S’Mores and Pours Fundraising Event helping to raise over $35,000 for their organization. If that doesn’t paint a picture for how storytelling can make a difference, then I don’t know what does.

If you’d like to hear more about my time at Camp Encourage, I’d love to talk to you about it. I loved telling a story like theirs…a story of PURPOSE.  I’m excited to add these stories to my business this year.

If you’d like to learn more about Camp Wirkshop and bunk up with us, click here! We’d love to have you!

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