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Yes They Can

February 16, 2012

I didn't appreciate my view from the sky until I met some special kids.

It was two or three days into Fresh Air Camp at Camp Cheerful in Strongsville, Ohio. A few of the arborists from The Davey Tree Expert Company I recognized from the pruning and other maintenance I had experienced in the past few weeks. From what I could see between branches, they were standing below, putting together cables, ropes and harnesses. It looked like they were preparing for some sort of activity for the campers.

Then, I noticed some medical and student volunteers guiding a few of the children toward me. Some looked excited; others looked nervous. As they arrived beneath the canopy, I watched as each of their chins gradually turned up toward the clouds, seeking my topmost branch, such wonder in their eyes. Fifty feet is nothing to me - I live it every day. But what does 50 feet mean to them?

It was then I realized these kids were going to climb, and I was going to have the opportunity to experience it with them, every inch along the way.

After watching the campers - some in wheelchairs and some even unable to smile - enjoy several outdoor activities during their first few days at Camp Cheerful, I was amazed. They were ventilator- and tracheostomy-dependent patients from children's hospitals in northeast Ohio. And they were doing the impossible. Through my leaves and swaying branches I could still see the expressions of achievement and pride in their eyes. But I couldn't imagine the possibility of these children climbing a tree. And why did they pick me, a 70-year-old pin oak?

Local Heroes - Fresh Air Camp 1 - WEB

When I began to feel a slight tug on one of my sturdiest branches, I once again averted my attention to the activity below. The arborists were busy fastening the children into harnesses and placing helmets on their heads. Before I knew it, the first child was elevated off of the ground. Although I couldn't see his face, I could tell by his tight grip on the ropes that he was nervous, anxious and everything in between.

To my amazement, the boy settled in and kept urging the volunteers below to send him higher and higher into the branches. He kept going until he was about three stories from the ground. I noticed he never looked down - instead, the boy took in the greenery around him and simply looked up. When he had just about arrived at the highest point he could go, I got a closer look at the boy's face - he was smiling ear to ear.

Local Heroes - Fresh Air Camp 3 - WEB

For the sake of giving other campers an opportunity to climb the tree, the arborists then began to lower the child to the ground. As he gradually descended through the canopy toward the base of the trunk, the boy reached out to grab a few leaves from the branches, as if to acquire some sort of souvenir of this journey through a pin oak tree.

When the boy reached the ground, he was beaming so bright I could see it from my view five stories above.

The buzz word or phrase I hear during Fresh Air Camp is "Yes we can," and I've witnessed many instances supporting that throughout the years. I look forward to the next round of campers to visit this June, when they'll defy assumptions and reach the greater - and higher - achievements of their dreams.

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