Little did Aidan Espinosa, age 15, realize that his life was about to change when he stepped into the Special Friends volunteer training session this past summer to help with the camps for adults with special needs. Originally, Aidan had signed on in order to fulfill his volunteer hours requirement for high school graduation. In the process of becoming a buddy for a Special Friends camper, he not only found a safe place to belong himself, but his world perspective was expanded.
Even though Aidan was a bit nervous at first, he realized it would be an awesome week when he saw the first special friend get out of the car and run through the “welcome tunnel” of cheering staff. Aidan, better known as “T-Shirt” to the campers, shared, “Part way through, it wasn’t about getting volunteer hours anymore; it was about the experience with the Special Friends. By day three, I knew I needed to come back!”
He went on to expound, “I was accepted by the staff the minute I walked through that door for training. When in life can you be that vulnerable and transparent with others?”
Aidan’s mom, Terra, was a bit nervous as well. After a phone call midway through camp from her son, she was really glad that he was having this experience at such a young age. As a matter of fact, together they decided to cancel Aidan’s own week as a camper at W-Bar-B Ranch so he could return a second week to volunteer at Special Friends Camp.
“All in all,” Terra exclaimed, “I was totally inspired, and I may go and volunteer myself!”
This handsome young man is Vice President of his Sophomore Class at Arlington High School and on the varsity football team. In between football workouts and the latest musical production practices, Aidan is challenging others to return with him to volunteer at Special Friends Camp next summer.
And there’s already life-changing ripple effects from being a buddy. Aidan claims, “I will be more engaging with the special needs students at my school.”