Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October is Rett Syndrome Awareness Month

Talking about Rett syndrome is like me asking you how your day is going.  It is part of my conversations with people daily.  Especially in the month of October, as it is Rett Syndrome Awareness Month.  This month has been an interesting month for me in many ways.

On September 29th Anna Cate had her FIRST Rett Syndrome related surgery.  And with this surgery, also came our first purchase of a wheelchair, or what we like to call her "cruiser".  I will be honest, we had many mixed emotions over the purchase of a "cruiser", as she is mobile, but tires after long days of being out and about.  But at the end of the day, we want what is BEST for AC, and what is BEST for her, is for her to be comfortable and happy.  Anna Cate had a tendon lengthening surgery on her left leg and has been quite the trooper to say the least!  The bigger challenges have been showering and carrying her up and down the stairs these past two weeks and we have two more to go!  Can you say MASSAGE in the future????

Everyone has stepped up and helped with every aspect of care for not only AC, but Betsie and Eli too!  My aunt even flew in from Boston!  I guess she wanted a taste of the craziness too!

I pray that the surgery was a success and that Anna Cate will be able to be off her toe on her left side and be flat footed once again.  I just hope with one step back, we don't see any other setbacks and can move forward.

Her surgery came up very weekly as Camp Amica was at the end of August, then school started, and then we surprised the kids with a trip to Disney (deserves its own blog post!!).  But during all of this down time, I have had some "me" time again to think.

After my summer camp and seeing how happy Anna Cate was to be around her typical peers who are her friends, it hit me like a ton of bricks, that my passion is to make sure that she can live the most typical life she can as a 10 year old, just like her peers.  This was how I was also going to spread awareness and raise much needed funds for Rett Syndrome.  

As many of you know, I was the State Representative for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.  I was one of the families first contacts when they would enter the world of Rett Syndrome and I also would connect with all my families in my State asking if they needed to talk, help, etc.  Without going into too much detail, I realize that sometimes the best way to handle things isn't always the easiest.  I am no longer the Rep for IRSF, but that is okay, as I know that when one door closes, another door opens.

The door did open as I was accepted to the Board of Directors for Girl Power 2 Cure!  For those of you who do not know, Girl Power 2 Cure is:
          a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for treatments and a cure for Rett Syndrome, a devastating neurological disorder that almost exclusively affects girls.

We are committed to making Rett Syndrome the first reversible neurological disorder by harnessing the spirit of girls to support fellow girls who are suffering. We support girls in the planning and implementation of events that raise awareness and funds for Rett Syndrome Research, as well as support Rett families with resources, fundraising help and awareness tools.
Our inspiration is our flower:  always in bloom with hope and positive energy, ready to grow anywhere there is someone ready to join in our mission.

My passion for my daughter is that she can be just like any other girl her age.  I wanted to become involved with GP2C on a higher level as everything I do for my daughter is about believing in more, in life, in a chance, and my passion parallels the mission of GP2C.  By harnessing "typical" peers to support girls who are suffering from Rett syndrome, GP2C is helping those around our "girls" to learn new creative ways to be, do and think.  I couldn't be happier to be involved with an organization with so much hope and positive energy.

With my new involvment with Girl Power 2 Cure and Rett Syndrome Awareness Month here, Anna Cate, Betsie and I hosted an all girls event at our house on October 16th!  It was called Pedicures and Pumpkins!  We had two awesome women come paint everyone's toes different shades of purple and if you wanted they would add the flower to your toes!  Pumpkins were everywhere!  We had our own mini pumpkin patch where our  guests picked a pumpkin and then painted the Girl Power Flower on it to raise awareness at their homes.  Everyone enjoyed (or I should say devoured) delicious Girl Power cupcakes made by a friend who started her own business, Kakealicious.  And then event would not have been complete without Girl Power!

Anna Cate had so many of HER friends not only come to enjoy, but who wanted to HELP with the event!  I was the only adult, the rest of the show were all AC's friends!!!  It was so amazing to see them work together for Anna Cate.  They loved every aspect of the day and they were the BEST at selling Girl Power 2 Cure bags and flower decals, as well as, flowers to plant a garden of hope for Anna Cate and all girls living with Rett Syndrome.  Nothing stopped them and when one wanted to go to another station they made sure they had someone to cover their station where they were working.

All of our friends who attended I truly feel left here on Sunday feeling that they not only made a difference, but really had a better understanding of Rett Syndrome after meeting two girls living with Rett Syndrome.  For me it was really touching to see mothers and daughters enjoying themselves while supporting a cause close to my heart.  It is obviously hard for me to do some "typical" mother/daughter things like getting a pedicure with Anna Cate at a salon, so I brought the salon to us!  And it was incredible to share this moment with friends who believe in Katie!

At the end of the event I was walking around taking pictures and my husband (ok, there were a couple of boys there showing BOY POWER too), called me outside.  He had found the best picture opportunity to end my pictures for the day.  On the table where the girls were painting pumpkins someone painted, "I love Anna Cate", and a pumpkin had written on it "find a cure".  I couldn't agree more with these two two statements!  But knowing it was her friends who wrote these words makes me happy to know that we are making a difference together, but also makes me sad that they even have to use the word "cure" when talking about a friend.
Anna Cate, I love you and we WILL find a cure!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Double Digits!

Ten years ago today, we welcomed a little gem into this world!  Anna Cate was the most beautiful baby, she looked like the Gerber baby.  She was 5 pounds 10 ounces of pure joy!  I didn't want to stop holding and cuddling with her.  But of course everyone else wanted their time with her too so I had to share!  On my side this was the first grandchild, so a new role was given to my family-- grandparents!     The first month of life with an infant is an adjustment for all, but for me it was a month I will never forget.

I love children and always babysat but having a child of your own who you are responsible for is a bit scary!  They have all these books on what to expect when your expecting and what to expect the toddler years, but babies don't come with manuals!  I was so nervous to be left alone with my five pound little bundle, that I wanted my mom to stay with me every day Wally was at work.  I was afraid I was going to do something wrong.  But knowing my mom was there with me I knew I would be okay!  It is funny how at the time when I had become a mother is when I really wanted mine! 

Neither my mom or I knew that we needed each other nine days after Anna Cate's birth. As we sat on the bed watching the Today show while Anna Cate slept peacefully between us, we witnessed the worst day in history in my lifetime!  September 11th.  At that moment I knew I couldn't be afraid anymore and needed to protect my child.  

Anna Cate was the best baby and toddler!  She loved to play, carry bags (at least 5) per arm while pushing her baby carriage, play ball, laugh, and be a stinker!  She would make you happy by being in the same room!  She was so full of life and loved to be the center of attention!  I can still see her running around with her little blankie on her head.   

From two years of age till five we were left wondering what was going on with our daughter as every test came back negative and every doctor evaluation undiagnosed.  I will say, it was hard trying to figure out AC, as it was mainly her speech that was affected.  Then November 2007 happened and the third test for Rett syndrome came back positive.

When I look back at pictures of Anna Cate before "D" day, I look at them in three ways.  One, how lucky we were and how lucky she was to be a "typical" baby and toddler to give us those memories we hold on to.  The " remember when" moments that we hold so close to our hearts as she never did them again.  Second, I look at them and think, what would she be like if Rett hadn't taken over her life.  And lastly, I see a child who tries every day with every ounce she has to be the best she can in the body she has and she doesn't give up!

When I think about how much Rett has taken from Anna Cate, and how she needs us all the time, I often think back to when she was a newborn.  I think how afraid I was to be left alone with someone so helpless and tiny, but little did I know that my baby would still need me as much now as she did then.  And little did I know I would still need my mom to comfort me and tell me everything is going to be okay!

Every year I think we all wish for the same thing when we are blowing out our birthday candles.  For Anna Cate, something so "little" is a "huge" obstacle.  Looking back on the first time she blew out her birthday candles, she was turning 4.  It was in this next year of life that we learned a lot about how Anna Cate learns and she started doing great things educationally and socially.  And a year later, at 5, is when we had closure and got her diagnosis of Rett.

Tonight, as we celebrated her 10th birthday, she blew out her candle for the first time since she was 4!  I know that this means this year is going to be great, but I get equally excited thinking that 11 may be her year of miracles!

Happy Birthday Anna Cate, I love you!            

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


.....that is exactly what was in my house two weeks ago during Camp Amica session two!  The theme for this session was, you guessed it, "Girl Power"!

Every day we learned about a "woman of the day" someone who has made a difference in the world, we did a "craft of the day", "question of the day", "story of the day", ate lunch together and had free time (which we couldn't of planned a better week as the weather was perfect!!!).

The first day we explored Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan and their relationship.  Immediately some amicas realized that Anna Cate and her teacher, also Amy, shared the same kind of relationship that Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan shared!  It was wonderful to see them realize this on their own!  During morning chat I asked the girls as we went around the room if they could think of other women who have made a were some of their responses....

Susan B. Anthony, my mom, Rosa Parks, Betsy Ross, Helen Keller and saving the best for last.....
when I got to Katie, I asked her, just like I did everyone else, "do you know a woman who has made a difference", (and mind you I have never asked her this question!!!), without skipping a beat, she turned her head in Anne's direction and said her name!  It was one of the most amazing moments!!!!   And I couldn't agree with her more....Amy has got GIRL POWER for sure!!!!

We also played a little game where everyone had to go around the room and tell us their favorite animal, WITHOUT USING THEIR MOUTHS!!!  Mostly everyone acted it out, with the exception of Anna Cate who used her iPad and another girl who wrote it down.  It was hard for some of them to not use their mouths and for them to realize how hard it is not to use your mouth when you have that freedom every day.

We broke into out two groups this day and as group one worked on the making two frames (one for them and one for a special amica) the other group made chocolate covered pretzel rods and worked in their journals...and then they switched!  Lunch was cheese quesadillas and then they were able to enjoy their pretzels!

Day two....this was my favorite day...and the day that I was floating through the air in my own house!  The "woman of the day" was Mother Theresa, not bringing anything religious to the discussion, but for the main fact that she lived her life doing things for others and what groups she focused on helping.  So today's whole day was about doing something for someone else!  The girls learned that the frames that they made the day before was going to be going to a girl who lives with Rett syndrome, just like Anna Cate.  But to make the experience personal for them, each girl was given the chance to go to a computer or iPad and take the time to learn about who they wanted to pick as their "amica" from the Girl Power 2 Cure website!  I was BLOWN AWAY at the level of dedication these girls had in picking out their "amica".  After each girl picked their "amica" they painted a picture on a canvas for them and then wrote them a letter.  Many of the girls kept going back to the website to make personal connections to the girls by something they could relate to!  And one girl noticed her "amica's" birthday was in September so she painted balloons!  As MY "amicas" were busy, we listened to the GP2C cd and before the day was over all the girls were marked with the GP2C flower tattoo!!!  

The day seemed to have flown by as I felt like I was dreaming!  It was one of those perfect days.  And to see Anna Cate, picking an "amica" of her own and making a picture for another girl who lives with the same daily struggles that she faces every day....that is GIRL POWER!

While I was floating through the house I was preparing lunch which was homemade chicken nuggets and organic brown rice crispy treats!

And the last day, the "woman/girl of the day" was each of my AMICAS!  The day was about them and how they can make a difference today, tomorrow or in the future.  In morning chat we explored other children and teens and how they are making a difference and we talked about how THEY made a difference the day before!  The smiles that are going to be brought to the 10 faces of girls living with Rett syndrome shows how anyone can spread GIRL POWER!

During morning chat we went around the room and said who/what we would like to help by spreading girl power and the answers were split between helping homeless animals, homeless people and people with special needs/cancer.

During craft of the day, each girl was given a bottle that they would be putting two pieces of paper in.  One piece of paper had their name on it and ever other camper had to write down one nice thing about the person who's name was at the top.  My amicas even wanted me to write something about them!!!  And then on the other piece they were to draw a picture, write or do both about how they want to spread girl power in the future.  My HOPE is that they will not open these "message in a bottle" for some time, HOWEVER, if they have to, I told them to read the sheets of paper when they are feeling down or in a bad mood.  It will help them to feel better by reading what their friends had to say about them!  Then they had fun filing their bottles with all different color sand!

And lunch today was super fun....we made mini taco bowls and had tacos and then decorated cupcakes for dessert!  The taco bowls were a hit!

Just like my first session each girl got a collage of pictures of the week that we shared and a journal full of memories.  While they were busy having fun AND making a difference to 10 girls on the second day of camp by being themselves, I don't think they realize how big of an impact they will have on those 10 amicas from GP2C!  I know how those amicas are going to feel and I know they will have a smile on their face, because I see the same smile on my "special amica's" face that these 10 girls brought to her this summer!  

I am going to end with two quotes that we shared this week:

"The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt within the heart"---Helen Keller

"Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing"---Mother Theresa

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Enjoy the little things.....

...for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things"

When I mentioned that I was starting my own camp, I have to be honest, I didn't think it would have had such an impact on me! First let me back up...when I initially decided to do the camp for my girls and only girls in our neighborhood, I decided on the name to be Camp Bella....bella being ONE of the ways you can say "friend" in Italian. Well, after the 100th person telling me that technically, "Amica" is the true word for friend in Italian, I changed the name. The new name and logo is below!

Leading up to my first week I was a little nervous and the only thing I was most nervous about was the fear of everyone having a bad time and I would have 16 eyeballs looking at me with a dumbfounded look! But after day one, I knew that was not the case! I was wiped out! Wow....we not only had fun, but packed a whole lot into one day! Our theme for the week was, "Go Green". Every day had a similar layout, where we started the day with a "morning chat" where we learned more about our friends, talked about the day, and explored our theme in greater detail. Then we broke out into two groups to work on the different tasks at hand. While one group was getting started on the "craft of the day" the other group were pondering the "question of the day" in their journals. Both groups were also enjoying a healthy snack to keep them going as their imaginations were in overdrive!

Of course they had free time every we both needed this time to run around and scream! However, my screaming was done on the inside, but it was screams of happiness, as I was having so much fun ( I know I am crazy...right!). But honestly, I was enjoying every minute with all 8 of these girls! My down time, was my prep time to get us ready for the next transition....lunch time!

Yes, that is right...they MADE their own lunch and dessert every day!!!! And do you know, this was one of the main highlights from my amicas!!! The girls made kebabs, dirt/sand cups, pizzas, ice cream sandwiches, peanut butter/soynut butter swirl sandwiches and ice cream sundaes! I had a kitchen full of mini Julia Childs'!!!

Timing is key when you are trying to plan out 3 1/2 hours of time for 8 girls. I thought that I had it pegged down to the minute on how fast things would get done, and just when I thought, "I did it", they were done! And I still had 20 minutes planned for this activity in my schedule! Now what....well....let me introduce you to one of the BEST ideas ever....Story Cubes! There are 9 dice in a little box and every side of each die has a picture on them. Well, you can play with one person or up to nine. All the amicas sat in a circle and I handed each of them a die. Then I gave them a topic and said that they had to create a story together. Each person rolled their die and then had to think of a sentence that had that picture in it AND it had to go along with the topic and make sense. The girls LOVED letting their imaginiations roll! And when they were finished, they would read it out loud to me and it was exciting to see how excited they were in creating something together.

As I mentioned every amica had a journal for the week. They had a "question of the day" that they had to answer on our topic for the week. Also in their journals they each signed each others book on the first day, I typed up the "story of the day" that they created with the story cubes, facts on our theme, fun facts about their amicas and then all the recipes we shared!

After the three days were over, my house sounded so quiet! I made a collage of pictures for each girl to remember our fun week and then took a walk around the neighborhood to deliver them one day. They loved them!

Going into Camp Amica I was nervous and ending the week I was overwhelmed by the responses! All my amicas couldn't wait for the next session! For me my goal was achieved; I wanted Katie to have a fun summer doing typical things with her typical peers from school. We achieved all three and more! I loved how they involved Anna Cate into everything, but more importantly I loved seeing her surrounded by friends and being one of them.

Camp Amica Session Two here we come!

(Camp Session one was held in July and a month later Session Two was held)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Friendship speaks in words your heart can understand

Some people are just truly genuine people and sometimes it surprises me in this world that we live in today to come across such amazing individuals.  

About 4 months ago, I met a woman in an exercise class who was mentioning that she was going to be running in the Boston Marathon.    Coincidentally, two days prior IRSF sent out a message stating that the Boston Marathon was letting the  Rett Association of MA have their first Rett Team to raise awareness.  In talking with my new friend, Debbie,  I asked her if she would be willing to run for my daughter.  I gave her Anna Cate's "business card", describing Rett syndrome and how it affects her and also told her that I would send her the link.  We exchanged some emails, she read my blog, and then I got an email from her saying she was signed up and yes she would love to!  I was in awe!  I couldn't believe it!

I thought she was just going to be running in the marathon, not having to raise awareness and funds.  She set a personal goal of $1000 and raised well over this, close to $3k!  The Rett Association of MA had a page for their runners to tell their personal connection to Rett syndrome.  Here is what my friend wrote:

I met a woman, Em, at a fitness class and I learned that she had three children, the oldest daughter having Rett syndrome.  At the time, I knew nothing about this disorder.  Em learned the same day that I was running the Boston Marathon and asked if I would consider running on the Rett team.  She gave me a card with information about her daughter, their webpage and her blog.  I was touched by her story, and so impressed with her ability to meet the needs of her family despite the hurdles she encounters each day. In comparison, my life has no hurdles, and I feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity to help make a difference for a family like Em’s.

Does this not bring you tears?  Well, if it didn't this will!  I wish that we could have been in Boston to cheer Diane on, but it was Spring Break and our family needed just that....a break.   So we followed her online from South Carolina.  She ran the race in three hours and forty minutes!  I think I would still be running!

The last week of April, our county hosts a Special Olympics event called, Little Feet Meet.  Anna Cate participated and she had her cheering crowd of 16!  One of her fans was Debbie who came out to meet Anna Cate for the first time!  She spent the whole morning cheering her on and getting to meet our family.  It was extremely thoughtful of her.  Before she left she gave me a gift bag and said this is for Anna Cate.  I thanked her and told her we would open it when we got home together.  I never knew that what was in the bag would move me as much as it did.

After getting home and talking about the day, I said to my parents, let's open the gift from Debbie.   So I brought the bag over to Anna Cate and my dad read the note that was included out loud.  It was the most beautiful note I think I have ever received.  We were all crying.  But the words that went straight to my heart were, "I wanted to give you something that means something to me from the marathon and I hope you know that you are the real winner and person who deserves this finishers medal."  Debbie gave Anna Cate, the medal she received when she crossed the finish line running the Boston Marathon!!!!  Every time I think, write or talk about this moment, I still get teary.

Debbie, you truly are an amazing person, one with a huge heart and I am so thankful to call you a friend.  Thank you for making a difference in Anna Cate's life by not only raising awareness, but believing in our cause and believing in her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Better Together

This year for Spring Break we took our first family Spring Break trip to the beach.  The girls and I (pre-Eli) have gone away for Spring Break, but never the five of us.  After Will complained a little bit about me always wanting him to take days off here and there, he (I think) was the most excited that our departure date was rapidly approaching!  

There is one place I can honestly say that every person in our house loves and it would be the beach!  So I couldn't think of a better place to go relax for a week, then a place we consider our second home.  We travel to Litchfield Beach, South Carolina every summer so we decided to pray for warm weather and rent a house with another family for the week.  

We were BLESSED!  We had perfect weather and a wonderful time!!!  Our friends, the Monette Family, who we are very close with were  introduced to the beautiful, sandy beaches of South Carolina (they usually vacation in North Carolina.)  Our children all play well together and enjoy each others company.

All of my children are so relaxed when they are at the beach, that it makes me feel so happy to see them like this!  It hasn't always been this easy!  Anna Cate, has ALWAYS loved the beach, ocean and pools!  She loves to go for long walks on the beach and loves to sit and just watch the waves crash.  Watching her look out into the ocean sitting as relaxed as can be makes me feel like she is at peace.  And when we are not on the beach, we are usually in the pool back at the house.  Which I would have to say is probably her favorite thing in the world.  Anna Cate will tell you "pool" a hundred times if there is one in sight and we can't even talk in code anymore by spelling " P O O L" or "L O O P" as she knows what we are talking about and then says, "pool".  She loves it that much! took her a while to get used to the sand.  One summer she would not put her feet down on the sand!  During family pictures we had to place a towel on the beach for her to stand and sit on.  But from that moment we told her, we as a family will always come to the beach, so if you want to enjoy the beach, you need to get used to the sand.  And of course she did, the day before we left that year!  But NOW, she loves it and denies ever being picky about not liking the sand. Good thing for cameras!

And Eli, he was just like his sister Anna Cate, and his first trip to the beach was when he was weeks old, but he was the champ of taking a nap under the umbrella on the beach.  By his second trip he was crawling to the ocean and hasn't stopped wanting to go into the water since.  He is a little fish!

We are at the stage were all three of our children enjoy being at the same place at the same time and they can either do their own thing or they will play together!  It was beautiful to see.  But more importantly being at the beach is the one place we can be a family and enjoy quality family time the entire week. 

If we are on the beach, we are on the beach as a family.  If we are in the pool, we are in the pool as a family.  And probably one of the highlights of the beach every year is renting a golf cart.  Golf cart rides are the best!  This is how we get to and from the beach, instead of family "walks" we do family "rides", we hunt down the ice cream truck and over spring break we learned of a short cut to get ice cream at the ice cream shop by golf cart!  What could be better!  We make our own fun on the golf carts--we have two roller coasters we go is wooden...and the other we like to call cricket loop!  We go searching for alligators and we just like to cruise!  But while we are having fun, we are also creating memories.    

When you have a child who is non-verbal you always wonder if they are truly happy.  I "think" I know when Anna Cate  is happy, but there are some days when I don't know if she is.  But I can tell you with 100% certainty that when we are at the beach, cruising down beach road in our golf cart with the wind in her hair and she is NOT wringing her hands, but holding onto me with her left hand and onto the handle with her right, dancing to Jack Johnson's "Better Together" on my phone, that she is one happy little girl!  And that image of her will always be in my mind.  

Spring Break for us was a time to be together and enjoy each other without the busy schedules that we live every day.  It was a perfect week to unwind in a place where we are all comfortable and have fun!   Mae summed it up best....the day we arrived, she and I went to the grocery store and as we were pulling into the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly, she said, "it feels good to be back".  I couldn't agree more!  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

If you build it, they will come!

Every year around this time I start thinking…what camps are the kids going to do this summer.  And we start looking and looking and while I could fill up both Betsie and Eli’s summer, there are not many choices for Anna Cate.  When she was in preschool things were so much easier, but now that she is in elementary school, many people do not want the responsibility of a child that requires “more” attention, even if she is going with Amy, who will give her everything she needs to feel just like any other little girl.

Last year, we did find one camp, vacation bible school, and while the girls had a fun time (I assume), I don’t think they truly enjoyed it, as when asked if they want to go back, there was not an answer, from both of them!

And while I try to “fill” their summers with camps, I have to keep asking myself, what is it that I want them to get out of their summer break.  The only thing I want my kids to have, is a fun summer filled with memories.  And they have the most fun when they are doing things that they love with their friends.

All I want is for Anna Cate to be just like any other nine year old girl and to have fun too!  I want her to be able to do as much as she can like her peers, even if some things have to be altered for her.  I want her to be able to participate not in a camp with other children, but a camp with her actual friends.  I want her to remember her summers of being filled with fun, not always work. 

So when I couldn’t find a camp that I thought would be the best fit for Anna Cate, I decided to start one in our neighborhood with the girls that she goes to school with every day.   And so….

Picture (Enhanced Metafile)                           
                     Where your friend is the girl next door
                          ‘Bella’, Italian for Friend                     
has been born! 
(Please forgive how the logo looks....couldn't get it right on is in pink and the tag line is below)

Camp Bella is an all girls mini day camp, for ages 6-10, which will be held during the summer for three sessions, two in July and one in August.

I sent out my first email to the girl’s friends who I would love to have as my campers last week and I was overwhelmed by the response!  Nine, out of the first ten, that I sent it to, have said yes!  And from word of mouth, I am finding out about other girls in our neighborhood who go to the same school that I did not know. 

It is a going to be a great summer!  I know my girls are going to have fun and that my campers will to.  I am most excited for Anna Cate that this has fallen into place like it has so she will get to experience summer with her friends, like the girl next door.  But more importantly, I am thrilled for the experience that all the girls will have and the true meaning of friendship that will come from this camp.  We all are unique and special in our own way and no matter how we were made; we all can be someone’s “bella”.