Summer volunteers make a difference for a lifetime

Summer volunteers make a difference for a lifetime

Doing volunteer work over the summer gives young people something positive to do. For some of them, it can be a life changing experience and even set a course for their future.

"Ask her if John Cena's coming to Pensacola," Ramsey Robison gently coaxes one of her campers to ask a stranger for the answer to a question he has.

That might seem like a little thing, but it can be a monumental step for a young person with autism.

"Some of them don't like eye contact or they don't like loud noises or they don't like to be out in public sometimes. So, our job as teen peers is to help them experience it," Ramsey said.

Members of the symphony have brought a new experience to the Autism Pensacola summer camp. As they venture into the sights, sounds, and touches that many of us might take for granted, Ramsey brings patience and understanding from personal experiences with her own brother who is on the autism spectrum.

Jessica Lapen, the program director for Autism Pensacola, said Ramsey has a natural born gift.

"People are at ease when they're around Ramsey and that's really helpful for some of our campers who can have some really high anxiety," she explained. "To know that you're always going to be at ease around Ramsey; that's a really good thing to have in a classroom."

They're so at ease that nobody dwells on differences; just peers helping peers. Much of the time they're sharing life stories and secrets like any other friends would do.

Camper Alex Woldhagen was eager to tell us about his camp buddy.

Well, things that "were" secret anyway, but it's all good. Ramsey's commitment to four summers at camp has confirmed her calling and her career goal.

She's starting college in the fall and wants to become a behavioral analyst and work in the school system. She's seen what she can accomplish in just a few short weeks.

"My biggest reward is knowing that I'm making a change in these kids' lives; making a difference," she said.

And once you meet these campers, it's easy to see why Ramsey thinks that's so special.

And Alex agrees, "Ah, well because I'm an awesome person. I'm fun to hang out with."

Angels In Our Midst is brought to you by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.

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