Camp Emerson 2017 Award for Courage

Sue Lein
Posted by Sue Lein

Date: Monday, 12 December 2016. -  
Announcements, In the Press, Camp News

Camp Emerson is pleased to announce a new initiative, our Award for Courage.

Each year we will recognize a child who has demonstrated personal courage and support for others. Free 2-week tuition will be awarded to a first-time camper between the ages of 7 and 15 in December for the following summer.

It is our pleasure to give our 1st Annual Award for Courage to Mason Wicks-Lim. Congratulations!

Mason is 11 years old and lives in Massachusetts. When he was 10, Mason wanted to join a local children’s theater group with his friends. Since Mason is allergic to peanuts and treenuts, his Mom, Ali, spoke with the program to inform them of his allergies. The program’s first reaction was to bar him completely because of his allergy. When they found out that was illegal, they said he could join but that no one would be trained to administer his epinephrine and sometimes there might not be an adult present. Mason and his family were shocked by this rejection and lack of concern for his safety.

Mason’s friend, Sam, age 13 at the time, sent an email asking for the director to reconsider including her friend. Sam was told that she should apologize for her behavior (the simple act of supporting her friend) and if she didn’t, that she would be kicked out of the program. Sam did not apologize and was dismissed from the program.

As you can imagine, Mason and his family (and Sam and her family) were stunned by the program’s behavior. How could a program that is about kids treat them so cruelly? It was unimaginable. They had two choices; walk away or fight. They talked about filing a discrimination complaint because Mason’s food allergy is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was a difficult decision because it meant that Mason would have to re-live this harsh treatment repeatedly to adults and had to be prepared to face the theater program’s leaders – the very people who were mean to him. Mason told his parents that if he didn’t stand up to them that they would continue to do the same to other kids. He wanted to show them that they couldn’t treat him or other kids this way.

What Mason and his family did not know was that this act of bravery would not be seen positively by everyone. Mason was hurt to learn that his friends were not standing up for him. He knew he would never do that to a friend. You can imagine how hard it was to lose friends just when you needed them most. As the case went up through the Dept of Justice, Mason also learned that adults do not always act kindly or in ways that help children. Despite all the negative repercussions (we’ll spare you the terrible name calling that they were subjected to), Mason and his family continued to fight for his right to participate.

In July 2016, the US Dept of Justice concluded that the Young Shakespeare Players East had discriminated against Mason and had acted in coercive and intimidating ways. This was a huge vote of support for Mason. His act of selflessness will help other children with food allergies have access to programs themselves.

I have had the honor of hearing Mason speak to 100’s of adults at a medical conference and at the FARE Teen Summit where he received a standing ovation for his strength of character and heroism. Mason is wise beyond his years. He always finds heartfelt words when he shares his story. I’ve never heard anger or resentment come out of him and I know this has been a very difficult and exhausting experience.

Camp Emerson is built on respecting children and giving them a safe and nurturing place to grow and be a kid. Not everyone would have reacted to this rejection like Mason did. Most of us don’t want to stand out or make waves. We need to show individuals like Mason that we appreciate the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.

Mason Wicks-Lim is a courageous young man who has inspired me and everyone he has met. I want him to have the gift of camp where he will be surrounded by kind and caring adults and peers who will be cheering him on every day. This is why Camp Emerson is honored to give him our 1st Award of Courage to Mason Wicks-Lim and to welcome him into the Camp Emerson family.

If you’d like to read more about Mason Wicks-Lim’s story, see the FARE posts: It’s Really Important to Speak Up and We are the Unique Carrots.

39countries

39

Emersonians have come from 39 different countries