Ole Miss sophomore Hayden Hudson spent her college break in a unique way – working at a summer camp for kids and adults with special needs called Camp Bratton-Green.
The Episcopal camp offers regular sessions and two special sessions for campers 40 and younger, and campers 40 and older with special needs. Hudson fell in love with the camp and the people she served.
“I didn’t really have a passion for it before,” she said. “I really didn’t know much about it, as I didn’t have people in my life who had a developmental delay or physical disability. It’s not really like I’m helping them. It’s more they’re helping me.”
Friend Natalie Hardy said the job is a perfect fit for Hudson.
“She has the biggest heart, and when she loves something or somebody, she REALLY loves them,” she said. “Hayden is easy to get along with. She knows just about everybody, and even when she meets a new person, they are instantly friends.”
This summer, Hudson FaceTimed Hardy with her campers and told her about camp life. “They were so interested in meeting me because they think so highly of Hayden,” she said, “so they wanted to meet her close friends.”
Hudson has been doing the special sessions for three years and loves how a camper can’t age out of the camp. Since the campers are older, she said there are people her parents’ age who have been counselors since they were 14. They have grown up with their counselors.
“You really make friendships,” she said. “It’s not really like a counselor-camper dynamic. It’s really a friend-to-friend thing.”
Hardy said Hudson always makes time for campers by going to their birthday parties, dinner, or meeting them at church.
“She’s such hard worker,” Hardy said. “The camp she worked at this summer was so much work. She was constantly helping kids with their every need.”
Hudson worked at every camp they offered this summer, and she often drove or flew to get there.
“It wasn’t just that she enjoyed it,” Hardy said. “Other people noticed how well she worked with the campers. Hayden has a genuine love for these people and always has.”
Hudson works at Camp Bratton-Green and volunteers at the North Mississippi Regional Center in Oxford, where she hangs out with a class and is on the executive board for Enable Mississippi. The experience has inspired her to become a behavior analyst.
Hardy is also inspired by Hudson. Hudson has invited her to work with her at the camp next summer.
“Of course, by her enthusiasm and how genuine she is about it, it makes me want to join her next summer,” Hardy said. “Everybody sees her pictures and stories about the work she does, so I know I’m not the only one influenced by her outstanding work.”