My name is Kailee Boedeker, and I’ve been working as a volunteer for the Brain Injury Association of Virginia (BIAV) for the last several months. My involvement with BIAV began when I accepted a life-guarding opportunity offered to me for Camp Bruce McCoy in 2014. In 2015, I was given the responsibility of being lead female counselor, a position that consisted of keeping count of campers, providing care and management with activities of daily living, responding to emergency situations, and assisting new counselors whenever questions arose.
As I went through college, I would return to Camp Bruce McCoy and each year I learned a little bit more about brain injuries from survivors, their families and health care professionals. Having been able to facilitate recreational activities individuals with a brain injury may not otherwise have had an opportunity to participate in has given me a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Some of my most patient teachers have been campers themselves who encouraged me as I learned the best way to assist them, especially when I was a first year counselor and hadn’t had much exposure to individuals with a brain injury.
Campers have taught me they relish opportunities to feel helpful, and that’s something they really appreciate about Camp Bruce McCoy. Whether it’s setting up an activity together, passing the sunscreen, or simply sharing some perspective on a situation, some of my most memorable moments at camp are those insightful opportunities for campers to feel helpful, needed, and valued. Working together as a team is a valuable life skill, and helping make the experience enjoyable for everyone involved is what camp is all about. Gandhi said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others;” Camp Bruce McCoy gave that to me; it is a life changing experience for campers and counselors alike, and I wouldn’t be where I am without having met each and every one of those wonderful individuals.
My involvement with BIAV deepened as I got to know Anne McDonnell, the Executive Director. I participated in fundraising events to raise money for camper scholarships at Camp Bruce McCoy, and I attended their annual conference. In July of 2017, Anne invited me to “Brain Injury Report Out Day”, a conference where the latest findings about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) were shared and discussed on a local and national level. One of the sessions I found particularly interesting focused on an epidemiological approach to traumatic brain injury. As a result of those presentations and small group brainstorming activities, I found myself becoming more interested in the field of public health, specifically as it relates to traumatic brain injury. Exposure to different agencies and organizations dedicated to serving individuals with limited access to resources helped me learn how much work needed to be done on their behalf, giving me confirmation I had found the right career path.
While a career in public health has many different trajectories, I have chosen an area to dedicate my passion and voice to; because many of my professional experiences have been centered on individuals with a traumatic brain injury , I have chosen to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Health from George Washington University to serve those individuals. I’m excited to be learning from experienced educators, dedicated to and passionate about public health, who will inspire and motivate me. I plan to promote education about different types of brain injuries and help allocate resources to individuals with limited access. The groundbreaking research being conducted by respected public health professionals and educators is a key component to making forward progress, and I intend to inquire about more research in this specific area and continue searching for ways to improve quality of living for both survivors of traumatic brain injury and their families.
~Kailee Boedeker, Camp Counselor, BIAV Volunteer