My name is Emily Silva and I am graduating from the Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in May of 2022. I have just completed my doctoral capstone project with BIAV to support and enhance its longest-running program, Camp Bruce McCoy. However, my time with BIAV extends far beyond the past 14 weeks of my capstone project.
I was fortunate enough to become involved with BIAV in 2017 after getting connected with Dana Larson, an OT who has been volunteering his time to camp for 10+ years now. 2017 marked the first of my three years as a counselor for Camp Bruce McCoy – I was only 20 years old, and I felt absolutely terrified to approach a new experience in an unfamiliar environment with a population I had limited experience with. Ultimately, forcing myself out of my comfort zone turned out to be the best decision I could have made.
Looking back almost five years later, I consider my first year at Camp Bruce McCoy to be the starting point of my OT journey: I saw the therapeutic value of “doing”– actively engaging in fun, challenging, and fulfilling activities that are adapted to meet any and all individual needs.
I was amazed by the undying resilience and tenacity of survivors of brain injury. They shared their stories with me – the injury, the “before” vs. the “after”, the stigma, the isolation, the loss, the grief. At that point, I recognized how vital it is to be a member of a community with others that share your lived experience.
After each of my three years as a Camp Bruce McCoy counselor, I walked away knowing I gained so much in return from the incredible individuals who attend our camp. These moments of gratitude have fueled my efforts over the last five years to get where I am now – finishing undergrad, applying and earning acceptance to VCU’s OT program, pushing through three years of grad school (during a global pandemic), and coming full circle to finish my doctoral capstone with the very organization that helped jumpstart my career. I am so proud to be a part of the BIAV and Camp Bruce McCoy family, and I cannot wait to return to camp for the first time since 2019 this May. By then, I’ll officially be an occupational therapist – a dream that would have never come to fruition without BIAV and Camp Bruce McCoy.