Student organizes concert to benefit camp for neuromuscular disorders

Lifestyles: Senior project includes volunteering at Camp Promise West in Vaughn

of the GatewayDecember 4, 2013 

Emily Sawan’s worldview expanded last summer as part of her Gig Harbor High School senior project.

Sawan worked at a camp that specializes in neuromuscular disabilities, and she learned that outside appearances, like life in a wheelchair, are unimportant compared to spirit.

“Wait a minute,” Sawan said she realized at camp. “This is great. Why can’t this be everywhere?”

Sawan spent a week as a volunteer counselor at Camp Promise West, which is held at Camp Stand by Me in Vaughn. Camp Promise is a weeklong program for people of all ages who have neuromuscular disorders.

The camp started in 2009 on the East Coast by parents who saw a lack of options for people of all ages who have neuromuscular disorders. A camp is held in Connecticut as well.

Now, Sawan is putting on a benefit concert for the camp as the last part of her senior project. Bands from Gig Harbor and Issaquah will play the Gig Spot to raise money for the camp, which is largely staffed by volunteers and open to all regardless of financial ability.

The concert will be held at 7 p.m. at 6615 38th Ave. NW, Gig Harbor. The Mystery Machines, Knock Kneed, Madeline Wells and Foreclosure Notice all are expected to be part of the benefit on Saturday. The price of admission is a donation anywhere between $5 and $10. Raffle tickets are $1.

In addition, Sawan has been selling raffle tickets. The winner will receive an autographed Macklemore and Ryan Lewis CD, which was donated by a camper who messaged her on Facebook.

To promote the concert, Sawan’s siblings, Alex, 8, and Elise, 12, will hand out fliers during the Tidefest arts and crafts show this weekend at Gig Harbor High.

Sawan said the concert seemed like the a good fit. She’s seen other students take similar routes for their projects, too. She’s invited camp staff members and campers from the summer to attend.

“It would be a cool way to have fun and do something productive,” she said.

Sawan’s cousin was diagnosed with epilepsy when Sawan was in eighth grade. That experience opened Sawan’s eyes for volunteer work with disabled people. She found Camp Promise through a website that matches volunteers to opportunities.

“I’ve always been on the lookout for things like this,” Sawan said.

Many of the campers are older than 18, but Sawan spent her time one-on-one with one of the “little guys” — 9-year-old Wyatt.

The campgrounds are all accessible, and many of the campers use wheelchairs. It’s a week packed with activities — yoga, self defense, archery, swimming, dancing and a talent show.

Wyatt’s favorite day was “casino day,” Sawan said. For the talent show, he showed off his newfound self-defense skills.

All the activities made for an exhausting week, Sawan said, but it was the good kind of exhaustion.

Sawan hopes she can return to Camp Promise this summer, but it will depend on her college orientation schedule. Sawan, a senior, is applying to colleges on both the east and west coasts.

As she heads out into the world after high school, Sawan said the summer camp experience taught her that it’s about what’s inside a person, “not judging people on how they first look and first act,” she said. “You really do have to wait to see.”

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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