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Camp Run-a-Mukers help with Boxtel’s wish

Locations: News Published

By Sue Gray
Sopris Sun Correspondent

Courtesy of 

Imagine a world where dreams come true.
That’s the world being created by the visionary children of Camp
Run-a-Muk, an after school and summer camp in Carbondale. Last week
they celebrated the realization of a wish made by a special Roaring
Fork Valley resident, Amanda Boxtel, who was paralyzed from the waist
down in a skiing accident in 1992

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For the past 21 years, wheelchair-bound
Boxtel has dreamed of walking again. It was a dream shared by many,
including Jennifer Soucie who taught preschool with Boxtel before her
accident. Believing in the power of intention, they created a ritual
of envisioning Boxtel walking, which they kept to nearly every day at

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Last year, Soucie the owner/director of
Camp Run-a-Muk, invited Boxtel to visit the children, tell her story
and share her vision of being able to walk again. Soucie said Boxtel
actually got out of her wheelchair and crawled on the floor with the
children. “She showed them that her legs didn’t work,” Soucie
said, “and that made a big impression.”

Recalling the visit, 11-year-old
Sebastian Arreolla said “The first time I met Amanda, I was
surprised because when most people get hurt, they get mad about it
and she wasn’t… she always had a smile on her face. That’s what
I loved about her.”

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“They all loved her,” Soucie said,
“and she loved them back and they could feel that love.”

After Boxtel told the kids about the
robotic walking device she sometimes used as part of experimental
therapy for people who’ve lost the use of their legs, and expressed
her wish to own one so that she could walk every day, the kids
decided to help her achieve that goal.

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Will Rose (12) and Maya Lundgren (10)
spearheaded the effort to come up with fundraising ideas and all the
kids helped make and sell friendship bracelets, lemonade and artwork
featuring footprints of the younger children created by stepping in
paint and walking across a piece of paper.

“I told the kids I’d match whatever
they made,” said Soucie, “and within a few months I had to put in

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Soucie decided to create a website to
help the kids further their fundraising efforts, and last December was born. The XO stands for Ekso Bionics, the company
that makes the wearable robotic suit that resembles an exoskeleton.
The website tells Boxtel’s story and that of the kids dedicated to
granting her wish to own an Ekso suit. It also features a link to a
donations site.

But for Boxtel and the children at Camp
Run-a-Muk, it wasn’t just about the money. The kids also
participated in using their imagination to envision Boxtel walking
again. Boxtel believes all that collective energy has power, and what
you send out into the universe comes back to you. When
Australian-born Boxtel brought a boomerang to Camp Run-a-Muk, it
became a symbol of the power of manifesting your dreams.

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Boxtel and Soucie share the belief that
love has power, too. The children’s love and desire to help Boxtel
was soaring out into the community and the world, and coming back in
the form of donations. With the help of ImagineXO and other
benefactors, Boxtel’s wish was getting very close to becoming
reality. “You’ve held this dream and vision with me,” Boxtel
told the children, and promised that when she got her Ekso suit, they
would get to open the package.

On July 16, 2013, that promise was
fulfilled, along with Boxtel’s wish for the ability to walk again.
A ceremony was held at the Carbondale Recreation Center that included
a speech by Boxtel thanking the children for helping her achieve her
dream, and a rendition of Alicia Keys’ “This Girl Is On Fire”
sung by camper Sebastian Arreolla, with the other campers joining in
on the chorus. Then as the misty-eyed gathering of parents, friends
and community members looked on, the kids tore the gift wrapping off
the big box containing Boxtel’s very own bionic walking device.

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With the help of an Ekso Bionics
physical therapist and two trainees, Boxtel put the suit on and
within minutes she was walking through the lobby doors and down the
sidewalk. The device works by sensing tiny body movements and turning
them into strides using motors in the suit’s hip and knee joints.
With continued use, it actually increases physical ability as well as
alleviates the pain, swelling, and bladder and bowel dysfunction
often associated with paralysis.

Boxtel flashed her famous smile as she
strolled down the sidewalk to the cheers and tears of the onlookers.
The happy group of young campers followed close behind, in awe of the
whole experience.

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“I’m just amazed,” said camper
Will Rose. “A year before it was just a dream and now it’s a

Stella Shipman (12) was one of the
campers involved in raising money but who had never even met Boxtel
before the event at the recreation center said “When I saw her, it
made me realize how it would feel if I couldn’t walk and what it
would be like to walk for the first time again. I was happy for her.”

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“The bigger picture is the children
have a chance to learn that giving is its own reward,” said camp
director Soucie, “They get to see their efforts in the spirit of
love, hope and giving come full circle.”

In a follow-up interview at Camp
Run-a-Muk with Shipman, Lundgren and Arreolla, along with fellow
campers Coleman Straeter (6), Elijah D. Brogdon (9) and Zaida Leslie
( 6), it was evident that philanthropy has now become a passion.

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Through continued fundraising and
creative envisioning, they hope to send local X-Games athlete Sam
Ferguson, who is also paraplegic, to a surf camp for disabled people
in Costa Rica, “because he grew up in Hawaii and loves to surf.”

They also intend to help 9-year-old
fellow camper Parker Wilson, who can’t walk due to cerebral palsy,
by giving her a trip to the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce,
Florida, “because she just loves chimpanzees and orangutans!”

Lundgren summed it up by saying “We’re
trying to help people make their dream come true.”

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The Valley Insider’s video coverage
of this event is available at