Camp Coleman 2023
Camp Coleman, serving Veterans who have received and trained service dogs, and the Veterans’ families, took place October 6-8, 2023. Camp Coleman kicked off Friday night with a campfire and s’mores, singing and dancing – and David, the talented son of Veteran, Don, treated us to a song on his violin! Over the weekend, the families could do the high ropes course, ride horses, visit the barnyard, and do photography and arts and crafts. At the challenge course, all, from our youngest eligible participants (our 6-year-olds) to our oldest Veteran, Charles, did the big swing!
It was great to spend the weekend watching our service dogs in action and it was impressive to see how well-trained they are. A few dogs who were “in training” at last year’s Camp Coleman were certified service dogs at this year’s camp. It was evident to see the maturity in the service dogs, and their gentle loyalty to their Veterans. Easter Seals’ highly successful service dog program is made possible by the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance grant, and the service dog program has been a catalyst in connecting our Veterans and their family members to other programs such as Mind Body, financial education and coaching, and clinical therapy.
On Saturday night, Camp Coleman did an activity called Wishfloat. Jennifer Wright, Veterans Program Case Manager and Service Dog Program Liaison, talked about how Wishfloat was an opportunity to talk about wishes and hopes, and to remember who we’ve lost. Veterans talked about their military brothers and sisters lost in battles while away fighting, and lost in battles they fought after they came home. Adults talked about the loss of friends and family, and kids talked about the loss of grandparents and beloved pets. One Veteran mourned the loss of time, and one older Veteran paid tribute to the Veterans of the past decade “who fight a fight different than mine.” A tribute was made to Arland and Barbara Coleman, whose legacy and generosity inspired the creation of Camp Coleman. At the end, one Veteran closed out Camp Coleman’s Wishfloat by saying, “I know this though. My buddy would want me to stop and remember him, but he’d also want me to get up and put the best me out there tomorrow. My mission now is to live a life worth his sacrifice.”