For as long as I can remember, I have gone up to a camp on the edge of the Boundary Waters called Camp Du Nord. All of my greatest memories have come from the weeks I spent on Burntside Lake, from learning how to swim, to doing my first portage carrying a canoe. I have met all of my best friends at camp, and I wholeheartedly attribute that to the fact that we are able to explore the untouched wilderness and communicate with each other without the stresses of everyday life. My heart feels full when I am up at camp, it has made me into the person that I am today. Camp genuinely makes me feel like I have a purpose in this world and I feel so lucky to be able to consider it my home.
After begging my parents for YEARS on end, in 2016, my parents let me go to Camp Widjiwagan, which is a camp that takes kids up into the Boundary Waters. This was just before freshman year, everything was new to me at this point. I was moving from my little elementary and middle school to a huge high school where I did not know anyone. I had just moved from the house that I lived in for practically my entire life. I was excited to go to the Boundary Waters so that I did not have to think about everything that could possibly go wrong at home. But when I did get up to camp, just that happened. Everything went wrong; I got fevers to the point where saunas could not make me warm, my joints were so swollen that it hurt to walk, my body was not reacting in the way that it should have when I ate food. Still, I thought that I would probably get better once we got on trail. Fresh air and water does everybody good. I made it 1 ½ days on trail when my fever spiked to 103 degrees, and my parents requested that I be taken out of the BWCA. Once I made it home after a long day of travelling, I was admitted into the hospital, under the basis of “fever of unknown origin.” 4 long and painful days passed until they finally figured out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with lupus and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Everything after that went downhill. I had to take a medicine that made me very self conscious about how I looked. I missed the first 2 months of freshman year, and spent the rest of the year playing catch up. I did not make any friends even though I had joined clubs and activities.
Everything started to get better when I stepped foot on Camp Du Nord soil again. There, no one cared how I looked, no one knew that I had lupus. The air is clean, the water is clear, nothing bad could touch me anymore. I felt on top of the world. Camp is where I found my confidence again, where I was able to become myself again. Now, when I go to camp or to the Boundary Waters, I remember what it was like to feel confident again, I remember what it was like to breathe and let all anxieties go. Every minute that I am away from camp and the Boundary Waters feels like a minute wasted.
I am so glad that I was able to go to Washington D.C. to help protect this place that has such meaning to me. I could not imagine my life without this magical place. I will continue to fight for the Boundary Waters with everything in me so that future generations are able to experience it in the same way that I did.