Adventures with Rio: Shared Moments


Liz Hacker, junior, shares her experiences with handicap accessibility.

Welcome back to part two of my mini-series on helping others!

The summer before we moved to Thiensville was chaos packing up our house. In the midst of the stress, I went to a camp at Gaenslen for kids with disabilities. The camp was filled with excitement and there was always something to do. I assisted my friend who had a severe form of the disability that I have. I was 11, and he was seven . We ate in the same room together, and I remember helping set up a play mobile device over where he would lay. It was awesome seeing him interact with his surroundings because it was rare for him to respond to people. Another precious moment was when I got to hold him in my lap. I felt so proud to be his friend and helper; I will always remember that moment.

Middle school was weird because there was nobody who needed my help in the classroom at Steffen, but in the summer of 2012 I went back to the camp.  My sister had gone on a trip for two weeks, and I really needed something to do to keep my mind off missing her.

I helped a boy who was nonverbal, blind, and had sensory issues. He laid on the floor most of the day and rocked his head constantly. One day, I got on the floor next to him. It was really nice to be close to him; he loved being tickled and rubbed. Later that day, we went swimming together, and it was amazing to connect with someone who rarely responded.

I have had many moments of connection with people who are not able to respond. Whether it be a one time connection through holding hands, or forging an unbreakable bond by spending time together.

Unfortunately, I have had many heartbreaking memories, too. I want to share the good and the bad. I would be lying if I said “everything is great!”

Witnessing countless seizures is life changing. You feel utterly helpless watching your friend seize the entire way to school. You feel like life stopped, constantly looking for any sign of responding, saying their name over and over, only to find out that it is their birthday. The images never go away.

Hospitalizations are hard too; you feel like you have no power. I have had friends in and out of the hospital more times than I can count., wishing I could visit them, but knowing I couldn’t.

Sometimes, the emotional pain is so unexplainable. It is hard to describe the feeling of watching someone become less and less responsive and sense their loss of hope.

Another thing that was difficult was being grabbed by kids who didn’t  have any other way to communicate. Due to my disability, I was not able to defend myself. It was necessary for an adult to be with us at all times.

I have had so many experiences with helping others. Although it has  brought some heartache, it is so worth it.